If there’s one thing the majority of people at the Fringe can empathise with, it’s how hard the life of a jobbing actor can be. Unsuccessful auditions, lazy agents, missed opportunities and lack of creative fulfilment. It’s a song many here could sing and a story to which almost everyone can relate. So how do you stay smiling when your nearest and dearest are an ocean and five timezones away?
Ferrier is a natural performer; witty, dry and fully at ease in front of an audience.
That’s Emily Ferrier’s question in A Broad Abroad as the Canadian actress-comedian takes us on a whistlestop tour of her years in the UK. Many of her topics are fairly familiar ground: smug Alpha-males at the gym, discomforting casting sessions, disappointing exes - but what’s unusual about the show is that Ferrier is not alone on stage. At key pivotal points - usually when Ferrier is at her lowest - we’re joined live-via-Skype by her real-life sister Dani back home in Canada and given a window into their relationship.
It’s an ambitious objective, especially when mixed with recorded text exchanges between the two sisters, different scene-setting backdrops and a multitude of sound cues for Ferrier to react to. The result is that, unless each cue is perfectly executed, the snappy flow of the show can feel slightly stilted.
While these frequent transitions can disrupt the flow of the show, they don’t stop it being enjoyable. Ferrier is a natural performer; witty, dry and fully at ease in front of an audience, so any momentary glitches with the technology are shrugged off or, even better, adapted into callbacks for the rest of the show. However, it did make me wonder whether, with fewer transitions to worry about, her rapport with the audience could express itself a little more freely.
The Skype sections of the show are an effective way of showing how it’s possible to still feel isolated when friends and family are available at the touch of a button. Dani is there but also not-there, able to support when Emily needs it most but only after a few seconds delay which somehow render her reassurances a little less sincere. This is an interesting concept which I’d like to have seen explored and expanded more.
A Broad Abroad is a show slightly divided. It has one foot in safe, well-executed content and one in some far-more-intriguing but harder-to-execute ideas. However, the Fringe should be a place to experiment so, while it’s not perfect, it’s an interesting glimpse at a talented performer finding her voice.