The Edinburgh Fringe debut of LA-based comedian Natalie Palamides will not be what you expect but it will be one of the best things you see at the festival this year. This one-woman show is co-devised and directed by Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Doctor Brown and features more eggs than sense (even though few eggs survive the hour). Evolving out of a clown piece into a full blown interactive and semi-improvised experience, this fascinating comedy charts Palamides’ character growth from mute egg to omelette maker/mother tormented by the daily question “Do I raise my egg or eat it?”. I suppose you could say that, during the hour-long performance, she really comes out of her shell.
Not only a very funny, but also a very beautiful performance
The surreal nature of the show makes it hard to explain without spoiling it. But beyond the entertaining character voices (Palamides does voice work for Cartoon Network’s Powerpuff Girls), playful use of pastiche, and tremendous physicality, what’s really exciting about the piece is how it processes issues of maternity and femininity by erupting into a chaotic mess. It is appallingly funny to see Palamides stagger across the stage in panicked horror as a dozen or so eggs drop from her and smash to the ground between her legs. It’s an unashamedly mucky show, and rightly gross as Palamides’ character struggles against the unwanted pressures of motherhood and the burdensome weight of her own fertility all alone in the dark bunker venue with nothing but a frilly yellow dress for protection. It is an intelligent and often absurdly terrifying vision of the relentlessness of reproductive cycles. Structurally, it loops back in on itself whilst spiralling into chaos: mothers’ children become mothers themselves and eggs are birthed and eaten and spilt and dropped. It’s really great.
Perhaps the aspect of her work most deserving of praise is the relationship she manages to create with her audience. From the outset, this is cooperative in nature; the show begins with Palamides wordlessly seeking assistance from members in the front row to help get her out of her restrictive and burdensome egg costume. Sometimes walking into a show with a smaller capacity which involves a lot of audience interaction can create the kind of low-key dread you experience in maths class when the teacher goes around asking a question to each member of the class and you know it will get to you eventually. But, despite the egg-children she crushes into scrambled oblivion, it was easy to feel safe in Palamides’ hands as a performer and improvisor. It became clear very quickly that nothing could phase her. She dealt with, if not exactly hecklers, then certainly overactive members of the audience with the calm ease of someone who has absolute confidence in her own material and ability to keep their show on track.
It’s not only a very funny, but also a very beautiful performance: sometimes visceral in its nightmarish grossness, often heartfelt and always playful. Palamides’ delivery is engaging and self-aware, feeling as if it were always moments away from teetering into a knowing wink. Without wanting to count my chickens before they’ve hatched (I have learnt that this is a dangerous game) I hope Palamides has found Edinburgh to be a suitable nest and will bring us another offering next year.