Breathless, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

by Laura Kressly

Sophie has started a new life back home in Plymouth after years of living in London. She finally has her own place, and things are going well with the woman she’s dating. However, something looms over her life that she can’t bear to let go of – the vast collection of designer clothes that takes up every spare inch of her new flat. The urge to hold onto these items that she sees as an extension of herself is all-consuming, but she also really wants to invite her new girlfriend over.

Inspired by her own experience of clothes hoarding, this monologue by Laura Horton is a gentle story of accepting and managing mental health issues. Sophie, as played by Madeleine MacMahon, is sweet and a little shy. She’s recognisable as a writer – considered, careful and insecure. Meeting and dating Jo has been transformative, but when she looks at any of the clothes that pack her flat, memories flood over her. Each piece intrinsically corresponds with a part of her, or who she wants to be one day. Giving any of them up means she then gives up on herself. This humanises hoarding and is a reminder that it can be far less severe than the cases that make it onto telly documentaries.

The journey here is subtle. Though a particular event pushes Sophie into realising she has a problem, the process of acceptance and giving away her clothes is long and slow. This doesn’t diminish the play’s overall effect; instead it makes it seem far more real. Living with a mental health issue is not something that is easily and neatly resolved, it’s a constant process of work and self-acceptance. This show reflects this through its openness and generosity.

Breathless runs through 29 August.

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