Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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The dedication at the front of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe reads:

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be, your affectionate Godfather,

C. S. Lewis.

Lucy Grace, long feeling a strong kinship with the book’s protagonist Lucy Pevensie, clung onto the belief in Narnia well into adulthood. When she was 26, the dawning realisation that she would never reach Narnia suddenly hit her. With a sense of crushing loss, she turned to her well-thumbed copy of the book to search for clues that might refresh her once-dependable escape from life’s hardships. Previously skipped pages were poured over for clues, leading to the discovery of the book’s dedication – a revelatory moment for Lucy Grace. There’s a real Lucy! Perhaps she knows more about Narnia and can help her rediscover its wonder as an adult! But who is she?

Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield sweetly documents Grace’s search for the real Lucy, about whom there is little information. This quest leads her down the rabbit hole of contacting Lucy’s father’s estate, researching at the Bodleian Library and interviewing Lucy’s best friend. A research project doesn’t sound like it would make dynamic, compelling theatre, but Grace manages to do so with great success on this solo show.

Grace’s performance is excellent. She has a gleeful charisma and innate sense for storytelling that keeps the audience’s attention. Her childlike wonder at each discovery is infectious. Hints of her background and struggle come through somewhat, though the script is far from self-indulgent.The design, mostly piles of cardboard boxes, lacks the delicacy of the story even though they allude to the archives Grace trawls through searching for details about Lucy’s life.

Lucy Barfield died in 2003 from MS. There is still some mystery around her life, and some of Grace’s findings directly conflict each other. But the creative young woman who danced, wrote poetry and music who inspired one of the country’s greatest writers and academics helps Lucy Grace renew her belief. Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield is a lovely little story of adventure and discovery.

Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield runs through 29th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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People of the Eye, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Elizabeth has two daughters. Her youngest is “fine”. Her eldest has profound hearing loss. This diagnosis, in our able-bodied world with all its bias and privilege for those that are “normal”, is a hard one to take. Elizabeth wrestles with guilt, frustration and the never before considered world of adaptation to suit her daughter’s needs.

Theatre maker and actor Erin Siobhan Hutching grew up in a mixed D/deaf and hearing household. Collaborating with the Deaf & Hearing Ensemble, People of the Eye is her story, and those of families everywhere. It tells of parents, siblings, signing and secret languages. Projections and signing facilitates aid accessibility and support storytelling, creating a heartwarming montage of moments. The story is thin, but the message is clear: living in both the D/deaf and hearing world is a blessing.

Emily Howlett performs with Hutching as Elizabeth’s eldest. She signs as well as speaks and takes on several roles: a doctor, a sign language teacher and one of the two central characters. She and Hutching have a lovely chemistry and are generally believable as young siblings. Hutching also switches between Elizabeth and her younger daughter; these transitions are not always clear.

There is an added pedagogic element of Elizabeth taking a sign language class where the audience becomes the rest of the class. Though good fun, it is slightly forced – the story of this family is much more engaging than a lesson.

People of the Eye could certainly do with fleshing out, and its initial premise and structure are robust enough to withstand further development. The performances are engaging and they provide a lovely insight into family life with a disabled family member. The visual structure is a model for other productions seeking to increase their accessibility and can easily be applied to shows where deafness is not specific to the script. It’s a fantastic start with great potential.

People of the Eye runs through 27th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.