Dark Vanilla Jungle
  • By Isla VT
  • |
  • 8th Aug 2013
  • |
  • ★★★★

A girl appears on a blank stage in a white shirt and jeans and with a flower clip pinning back one side of her hair. This girl is Andrea (Gemma Whelan) and my goodness is she going to take you on a rollercoaster in the next seventy-five minutes. Hold on tight.

Initially, Andrea appears not to know what to say, silent, hesitant and nervously struggling to form words to say but once she begins she rattles through her lengthy monologue as though she’s afraid of what will happen if she stops. Powering through anecdotes about wasps, her singing voice, her mother, an abusive lover, and falling in love with an amputated soldier in a vegetative state at a hospital, Whelan carries the entire performance on her shoulders, without props, set, sound or lighting changes. This production rides solely on the quality of the writing and acting, which luckily in both cases is exceptionally high.

Andrea’s progresses in the play from telling her stories with a childlike alacrity and naivety to an anxiety fuelled panic attack and breakdown, sandwiching funny moments, explosions of rage and self-conscious rabbit trails. Whelan pulls off entertaining characterisations of characters within her stories, such as her mother and Mrs Vi (her landlady/grandmother), and interesting moments of physicalisation of her panic attacks, including an extremely disturbing scene in which she has a fit.

Andrea’s anxiety evolves from eager nervousness, to paranoid panic and finally to complete nervous breakdown; her response to questions or comments she imagines the audience have said, which at first evokes laughter from the audience gradually becomes more and more aggressive and unhinged. Whelan is thoroughly convincing and captivating from start to finish, emotionally credible, humorous, with erratic mannerisms she carries off the seemingly OCD manic-depressive Andrea with flawless believability. Although the second half becomes intense almost to the point of being unbearable and appropriately so, Whelan’s performance is nothing short of captivating. Be mentally prepared to witness a thorough breakdown and experience every moment Andrea describes right along with her.

Reviews by Isla VT

Assembly Roxy

Calypso Nights

★★★★★
Just The Tonic at the Caves

Shooting the White Eagle

★★★★
C venues - C nova

We Never Land

★★★★
Greenside @ Nicolson Square

Unprescribed

★★★★
C venues - C nova

The Devil Without

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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Theatre MAD
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

The Blurb

Time Out and Evening Standard Award-winner Philip Ridley's first Edinburgh premiere. A beautiful, breathtaking drama about one girl's craving for family and home... and the lengths she'll go to achieve them. 'Heart-stopping' **** (Times on Tender Napalm).

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