Women’s Award Winner Ria Lina returns to Edinburgh Fringe with a funny, endearing and eye-opening performance. The show, entitled Thpethial, poses several thought provoking questions: namely, what exactly does it mean to be ‘special’? She also manages to simultaneously draw a laugh from all but the most austere, indicative of a well-segmented and well-orchestrated performance.
Things kicked off a couple of witty songs, trusty ukulele by her side. At least initially, however, her material appeared hit-or-miss, haphazard, and at times fortuitous. Nonetheless, things were kept moving at a lively rate and soon afterwards there appeared a nifty and informative slideshow that served to help explain the title of the show. Earlier in the year, Lina received a number of defamatory complaints from a person who accused her of making fun of ‘special’ people. In an effort to defend herself, Lina revealed to the audience that she was recently diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a high functioning form of autism.
What followed was a flurry of observational humour and self-criticism, arguably the highlight of the night. The latter stages of the performance were by in large devoted to a critique of political correctness and the imposition of arbitrary labels on self-described special and neurotypical (normal) persons; how the media jumps on and portrays various events to the broader public. In the words of Jean le Carre, “The cat sat on the mat is not a story. The cat sat on the other cat’s mat is a story.” (Case in point, Oscar Pistorious who is one of the set’s subjects.) To finish there was another humorous and highly inappropriate song, ‘What I Need’, and left the stage to warm applause.
Though in the later stages it did feel as if the show resembled a highly informative lecture rather than a comedy, it must be said that Lina successfully conveyed her single and most important message to the audience: bigotry cannot and should not be tolerated. Thepthial is not simply a one-dimensional act of comedy, but an active encouragement to embrace ingenuity and originality.