Declaration, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Sarah wants to know everything. She’s inquisitive, gregarious and energetic, the life and soul of any party. But now that she’s in her thirties and wants to start a family, she needs to sort out some of her issues. So, she goes to a doctor to talk through all the behaviour quirks she’s had since childhood – the trouble sleeping, the irrational impulses, the disorganisation, the obsessions.

Diagnosis: ADHD.

Now that she knows what the problem is, does it really solve anything? Will a label help, or hinder? Will medication change the person that she’s always been and actually quite likes? Declaration is an honest, heartwarming solo performance that resonates with those of us who have always felt a bit different or care about people who are a bit weird or quirky. Written and performed by Sarah Emmott, with energy and charisma that’s undeniable, Declaration needs a few minor adjustments to make it an even slicker show.

Emmott’s script has the consistent theme of wanting to please but pesky impulses to do all sorts of irrational things get in the way. As an adult, she has developed coping mechanisms (which she marvelously demonstrates with audience help), but as a child, she was a loose cannon. The story of her childhood picks up once she introduces the superhero personal she invented for herself and a doll, Samantha, who is everything that she never could be. The opening exposition, though having important information, lacks the punch and the belly laughs that these sections have. Additionally, some of her transitions need clarity; consistent use of sound, lighting or changing props would help indicate a scene change.

Emmott develops a marvellous rapport with the audience from the moment they enter the theatre. She has the sort of natural magnetism that cannot be taught in any drama school, an innate quality that actors either have or don’t. Laughing and chatting, her stated need to know everything and everyone is evident. The audience rallies to her wide-eyed wonder, and snarky comments about school, doctors and other frustrations get plenty of laughs.

As Sarah works out how to get through life and a diagnosis has the potential to either change everything or nothing, the audience is with her the entire way. She uses props and audience interaction effectively, though she could use tech to further enhance the theatrical experience. Her lovable on-stage persona is a charming reminder that anyone we know may be struggling with mental health, learning or behaviour issues, and even though a few tweaks could be made to improve the show, she dares us to accept her, flaws and all.

Declaration was a one-off performance.

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