For many, the Edinburgh Fringe is a joyous escape from reality. While pouring away money on overpriced pints, or shelling out a small fortune on accommodation, most people try to keep their fiscal worries out of mind.
Sederholm is capable of resonant, emotionally charged writing.
But not Tina Sederholm, an author and poet who’s determined to get to grips with filthy lucre. Her new show riffs on a quote from Robert Graves: “there’s no money in poetry, but there’s no poetry in money either.” Sederholm attempts to prove Graves wrong, but doesn’t quite pull it off.
Til Debt Do Us Part falls awkwardly between genres. Anyone hoping for a funny, informative insight into economics (after the manner of Radio 4’s Simon Evans Goes to Market) will leave not much the wiser. Sederholm adopts the character of a fusty male professor for the show’s “educational” sections, but these comic vignettes offer few laughs and little information. Meanwhile, those looking for poetry will find the show light on verse; Sederholm spends more time talking about her struggle to make a living as a poet than sharing her poems.
As a piece of autobiographical story-telling, the show’s first half is hampered by Sederholm’s performance style. Her 15 years in teaching have left their mark on her delivery; whether sharing the details of her life or explaining her thoughts on debt, she tends to oversimplify, speaking down to the audience in a way that distances her from them.
In her poems, this distance disappears (particularly in a piece about her compulsive trips to Starbucks), but elsewhere her spell-it-all-out approach may leave you feeling more like a pupil than a confidante: “Could it be that making myself happy in the short term was making me unhappy in the long term?” she asks, before adding, in case we haven’t quite got it: “Yes, it could.”
The last fifteen minutes of the show, however, change everything. In an intimate anecdote about a holiday with her husband, Sederholm finally opens up, speaking honestly and engagingly with her audience. The moving, powerful account of a miscarriage which then follows culminates in the most powerful poem of the show, set in a hospital ward after her “evacuation” surgery. It’s in a different league to everything that went before it, and shows that Sederholm is capable of resonant, emotionally charged writing. It’s just a shame it takes so long to get there.