Harpy is an intricate portrayal of a nuisance neighbour, with more nuances than one would expect to squeeze into a one hour show. Su Pollard excels in her primary role of ‘Birdie, also inhabiting various other characters to extend the cast.

A beautifully deep and detailed descent into the darkness which constructs us

Birdie is, on first meeting, an obnoxious, aggressive hoarder – the bane of the social work department and tormentor of her neighbour, turning night into day with blasting tunes. She has unapologetically trapped several people in her house due to her hoard and is non plussed about this – and writer Philip Meeks uses these moments to inject some humour into what is essentially an intensely unfolding drama. The arrival of ‘Mattie’, a twenty five year old tasked by social work to help Birdie declutter her hoard, triggers a dark and painful history which quickly unravels before us. Pollard expertly takes us on an emotional journey of loss, loneliness and sexual assault as Birdie’s sad history unfurls before us. And when Birdie is at her most vulnerable, Mattie becomes a force which both destroys and saves her in equal measure.

The cacophony of issues tackled within this piece are astounding. A veritable tidal wave of emotions which leaves us raw and exposed, Meeks has woven an elaborate script which throws up politics, social observation, humour and sadness, playing with madness as a musician strums a fine instrument. A beautifully deep and detailed descent into the darkness which constructs us.

My only fault of the production was that at times, I wasn’t clear which character Pollard was inhabiting until the dialogue had progressed substantially. Perhaps the use of props or different accents (these were present but not obvious enough) would serve to distinguish this in a clearer way. This is a common issue in one person shows where the actor takes on various personas, and were this ironed out, would elevate the show to another level.

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The Blurb

Birdie’s a hoarder. The neighbours call her a harridan and a harpy, although most have never even met her. They see her hoard as a hazard for house prices. But it isn’t rubbish. It’s her life’s work and it exists because years ago something deeply cherished was stolen, and Birdie’s not been able to give up anything since. She’ll do anything to get this priceless thing back. Anything at all. A razor-sharp drama from Fringe First award winner Philip Meeks (Kiss Me Honey, Honey!), directed by Hannah Chissick and starring national treasure Su Pollard in her Edinburgh Fringe debut.

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