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Provocative and relevant writing delivered by a consummate actress, this arresting play remains important long after you leave the world of the theatre.
“It was a bit like Officer Krupke”.
So explains Tessa, a psychotherapist. She is describing the case of Karen, a mother she has been working with, who facilitated cosmetic surgery for Lila, her eight-year old daughter. This event unleashes a series of ethical dilemmas and the blame is passed around. Dolan’s one-woman monologue describes the chain of reactions and the broader problems surrounding them. These are murky, and examined in intricate detail from all angles - the mother, the father, the teachers, the friends, the media, the surgeons, the lawyers. The case – though hypothetical – is no more than a step away from those events already happening regularly in the world we know, where retailers sell padded bras for 7-year olds, where newspapers continuously sexualise underage girls, where the legality of breastfeeding is debated daily.
The result is a genuinely riveting hour – an intelligent essay told so conversationally that one can forget this is an actress. The first time a loud ringtone goes off, the entire audience holds its breath, suddenly reminded that this is a theatre and furious at the guilty receiver (it is with huge relief that we see Dolan pick up her own phone). Though unsurprising from this actress, it is a great credit to Dolan’s skill that whenever lines are fumbled or stuttered, we know that this is the character, not the performer, who is distracted from their speech. However, the inconveniences of a Fringe venue were particularly frustrating: being able to hear the loud music from a neighbouring show, or the sounds of traffic from the street too often distracted from the tense atmosphere. The show is understated, and that understatement contributes to the potency of the message. Yet in this armchair monologue, one cannot help feeling the desire for something more. Perhaps it is because the issues themselves are so pervasive and overwhelming that the listener leaves with a feeling of lack. Yet you leave wishing there had been some kind of call to arms, some kind of way to address the issues raised, but it remains grey. Instead we are left to our thoughts, and the fading lyrics of Belle and Sebastian’s She’s Losing It.
Dolan shows herself to be equally impressive as a writer as a performer. Provocative and relevant writing delivered by a consummate actress, this arresting play remains important long after you leave the world of the theatre.