Five years ago actor Amy Booth-Steel was diagnosed with cancer. Struggling to come to terms with the diagnosis, and later the aftermath of such a life-changing event, Amy found it hard to find her place in the world again. Then her mum bought her a ukulele and she started writing songs about her life. After taking off on Twitter, here she is in Edinburgh with #HonestAmy, a fifty minute musical monologue chronicling the events of the past five years since being told by the doctors that she could be “dead by Christmas”.
A great reminder of the resilience of the human spirit
Booth-Steel is a warm and charismatic presence on stage and immediately wins the audience over with her self-deprecating humour and down to earth attitude. She’s got excellent comedic timing, and often communicates more with one look than with a whole song. Not that the songs aren’t great. Ranging from just a couple of chords to full-blown power ballads, Booth-Steel dips her toes into genres ranging from folk to country to pop – including a hilarious Britney Spears imitation. The songs not only help her tell her story, but are sure to stick in the audience’s minds for days after seeing the show as there are some legitimate earworms in there.
The staging is simple yet effective, with shelves in the shape of a large 'A' center stage. These contain things from Booth-Steel’s life connected to the stories she tells. The clever lighting and assured direction by Kathy Burke give the show the theatricality it needs, while its performer’s friendly charm makes the whole thing seem effortless and spur of the moment. #HonestAmy sometimes feels like spending time with a good friend just going about their day, chatting away, making up songs and having lunch (a particular highlight), which makes the moments when Booth-Steel lets the mask slip and shows us the pain and confusion she’s still struggling with all the more effective.
#HonestAmy is certainly honest about all the things, big and small, life can throw at you and it doesn’t try to offer up any solutions or ways to avoid the pain. As Booth-Steel says, some of the darkest moments of our lives can also be the most beautiful, and the important thing is to know that we’re not alone. This funny, heartfelt show about the healing power of song (and ukuleles) is a great reminder of the resilience of the human spirit.