Sarah Calver begins her spirited, witty show with a disclaimer: this show is ideally watched in Berlin at 10pm while a couple of pints down. We might not have been under the ideal circumstances – Edinburgh, 3pm, depressingly sober – but Calver admirably continues with an imaginative and inventive mix of limericks, stand-up and physical theatre.
Calver’s interactions with the audience are particularly witty and adept.
With a knowing look to the audience and the admission that the show’s going to be a ‘bit weird’, Calver chops up then blends a heart with a banana and, in an ironic move, an Innocent smoothie. That’s as weird as the show gets; the rest of the piece is more tame in its look at heartbreak.
At several points Calver seemed to be going for something painful or profound and then she withdraws from going as far as she could. The blending together of Sarah Henley’s heartbreak episode in 1885 – which led to a near-miss suicide, saved due to her skirt acting as a parachute – with modern heartbreak is a nice way of providing the show with a neat narrative arc.
Calver is a very likeable performer, allowing the mismatched material to exist in the same show – from limericks with slightly tenuous rhymes about the men she has loved ('There was a guy called Rick/Who had a nice dick') to a self-aware list of things that heartbreak is worse than (with polio featuring heavily).
She is self-aware enough to make reference to the show being made up of little bits. Unfortunately, simply saying she is aware of the problem doesn’t fix the issues with the structure of the show.
There are some lovely sections of the play; for example, Calver’s interactions with the audience are particularly witty and adept. With a bit of tightening up, I Gave Him an Orchid could become a refreshing look at heartbreak.