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Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Groomed / Let the Bodies Pile | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Groomed / Let the Bodies Pile

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Groomed / Let the Bodies Pile

Gripping one-man play, and Covid revisited

Gripping: Patrick Sandford in 'Groomed'Neil Hanna

Groomed Pleasance Dome

“How can a truth be told? How can a secret be spoken?” Patrick Sandford asks in Groomed, his searingly honest account of his experience of abuse by a teacher at primary school several decade ago. Over 50 minutes he recounts his tale, weaving in other stories to illuminate his own.

At first it’s not clear why there is a saxophonist on stage (playing music by Simon Slater) providing an intermittent soundtrack. But as we hear about the accident-prone Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax and a Japanese soldier who didn’t surrender until long after the Second World War was over, we gradually see the parallels he is drawing.

Sax didn’t give up despite his many setbacks in life (including having his invention stolen) and when Huron Onoda, the Japanese soldier who held out long after peace was declared in 1945, finally walked to freedom, people didn’t laugh at him but congratulated him for his fortitude.

And so we see what it took for the adult Patrick to acknowledge what had happened to him, to overcome the guilt and the shame about somebody’s else actions, the burden of keeping  a secret long after he became an adult, and how it affected his ability to form close attachments.

Sandford (main picture) poses some difficult questions. Did his other teachers know? Was his mother complicit in his abuse because she fell for the teacher’s easy charm, inviting him into their home, for not noticing him brushing her son’s arm any time he was close? Why didn’t he say something?

It’s a serious subject, but Sandford lightens the mood with those survival stories threaded through the show and by throwing in the occasional ironic or wry line about human behaviour. “I was living beside my life, not in my life,” he says about not being fully engaged with others.

It’s a difficult listen at points but grippingly written and performed by Sandford and directed by Nancy Meckler. 

Until 28 August


Let the Bodies Pile Gilded Balloon 

Henry Naylor’s latest play (directed by  begins in 1993 in Hyde, Great Manchester where Frank (Naylor) and Georgie (Emily Carding) have just lost their aged mother. She had been reasonably fit and well, but took a turn for the worse while in the care of Dr Harold Shipman. A popular doctor to some, Dr Death to others.

Frank, who feels aggrieved he was left to be their mother’s carer for most of his adult life, admits to relief that she’s dead – did he knowingly leave her in the care of a doctor about whom questions were being asked?

Cut to a care home in 2020, where Frank is now a resident. His carer is Justine (Carding) who avoids work when she can – particularly when another resident with  explosive bowels needs cleaning up – by sitting with the now  mute Frank and having a sneaky coffee break.

But then Covid hits and all hell breaks loose as Justine and her colleagues are swamped with patients being discharged into care homes without being tested for Covid, and they have no PPE. As so many residents die Justine is gradually driven to the edge; is it the virus or something closer to home?

I’m not sure the parallel entirely works, but Naylor appears to be suggesting that indifference was what caused so many deaths in both cases. His anger is palpable, and it is good to be reminded that we should still be angry too.

Until 28 August

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