Drip Feed, Soho Theatre

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by Maeve Campbell

Karen Cogan begins her one-woman show floppy and lifeless looking, slumped over a grubby sofa bed. This is an uncomfortable image to pre-show chat in front of and it sets the mood for the proceeding work. Drip Feed is Brenda’s story, a ‘youngish’ queer woman living in Cork, inhabited by insular, parochial and judgemental residents. Brenda, though, is ‘part of the furniture’ of the city, but seems both in love with and restricted by it.

Cogan is a mesmerising actor who paints the characters of the city with effortless realism, demonstrating an impressive vocal range and physical ease. Her storytelling abilities rely on a clear focus as she swiftly shifts between humour and sadness. She’s very easy to watch, exuding the reckless confidence of the character.

Yet the piece is weighed down by a straining emotional baggage that doesn’t always play with the desired effect. Brenda’s central dilemma, and how she deals with it, is often frustrating to watch. She’s presented as a desolate, young gay woman living in 1990’s Ireland, who is worryingly vulnerable, and when her age is revealed to be much older than she presents, it is genuinely surprising. You do root for her redemption, but her refusal to accept any responsibility for her life becomes draining pretty quickly. It gets harder and harder to empathise with her and when, in the last chapters of the story, the biggest emotional thump hits, it doesn’t quite move as much as it could.

The show is nearly great, ending with a sense of optimism that comes in a little too late to be properly effective. It’s certainly worth a watch for Cogan’s performance and some really well-employed fairy lights.

Drip Feed runs through 20 October.

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