Dazzling is a one-woman show following Alix, a quirky twenty-something living through the obligatory suffering which comes with discovering oneself, especially in the shadow of her mental health struggles.
This play is as full of poignancy as it is hilarity
Played by Charlie Scott-Haynes, Alix is a charming and relatable character who is as awkward as she is gregarious and outspoken. With Fleabag-esque asides to the audience, we are brought along throughout her battle with alcoholism, her nagging coworker, and the enrapturing obsession with Fi, the object of a whirlwind romance. Holly Sewell must be commended for her raw and touching portrayal of how an anxious brain can latch onto fleeting relationships and substances in the hope of filling the void within. With a lack of direction and an unfulfilling work environment, Alix’s infatuation with Fi sees her weaknesses gnaw at her ability to cope without alcohol and find stability in her solitude. As each source of joy slips away from her, we see Alix become desperate to blame anything but her inner state, whether this be her dead-end job or a lack of commitment from Fi.
Scott-Haynes takes the challenge of a one-woman show in her stride, commanding the space with her joyful, youthful energy as well as her aggressive, anxious breakdowns. It is no doubt that she is a talented and skilful performer. She shifted her body language appropriately to communicate to the audience when other characters were on stage, dropping her abashed smile to a firm grimace to portray a difficult conversation between Alix and her best friend, Jan. The relationship between these two characters is a highlight of the piece, as Alix describes Jan with such affection and detail so as to authentically convey the strength of the bond and the years they have spent as friends. Scott-Haynes does a remarkable job of making Jan’s presence seem palpable in the scenes where they struggle to navigate their friendship through Alix’s addiction; this was an important shift in focus to those who are affected by the mental struggles of their friends and family. At certain points, however, the narrative struggled slightly when more than two characters were speaking, as it became somewhat unclear who was delivering certain lines.
The set, designed by Maddy Sanderson, perfectly complimented the decline of Alix’s mental state. We move from an averagely messy room to one strewn with food, wrappers and bottles, a visual representation of the chaos Alix is feeling internally. Pinned to the back wall is a white cloth, covered in scrawled lines of poetry which Alix recites at certain points throughout the show. Due to the colloquial, informal nature of the majority of the language, these moments of eloquence and beauty felt slightly awkward at times; the plot line of Alix’s determination to become a poet therefore seems slightly odd. The poetry itself is impressive and moving; perhaps if delivered with more assuredness, and if given a more solid basis within the rest of the writing, this would become a more substantial element of the show.
Overall, Dazzling is a tender, introspective take on how a youthful spirit struggles in the harsh surroundings of the modern world. This play is as full of poignancy as it is hilarity; it is certainly worth an hour of your time at this year’s Fringe.