The Dog/The Cat, Hope Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

Dividing up shared belongings after a breakup is awful, but custody battles are even worse – even if they are over a pet. With emotions running high, fallouts are inevitable when it comes to who gets to keep Fluffy or Fido. These two, one-act plays explore relationship dynamics through a filter of pet ownership, though both struggle to translate big ideas into coherent storytelling.

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Fringe Wives Club: Glittery Clittery, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

by guest critic Joanna Trainor

“We’re not here for your pleasure.” “Consent is hot.” The Fringe Wives Club need some merch with these slogans on. Glittery Clittery has everything you need for a cult feminist disco, plus a labia costume.

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Hot Brown Honey, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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‘The revolution is childcare!’ proclaims Busty Beatz from the top of her honeycomb mountain. The revolution also honours people from First Nations around the world, respects women of colour and escapes the constraints of imperialism. It’s owning your body, your sexuality and your race. It is Hot Brown Honey, the radical feminist cabaret from Australian women of colour.

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Only Bones, Soho Theatre

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by guest critic Rebecca JS Nice

Short and sweet, classic and comical. Thomas Monckton performs a solo piece glued to his spot, centre stage beneath a low hanging lamp, which obscures his body from the shoulders up for at least half of the work. Only Bones is a classic example of body manipulation that playfully explores all the possibilities that a clown can find and make with only his body, one square metre of space, and one light. These creative boundaries have been stretched and tested but remain in performance to give the show a formal identity and context for Monckton’s shenanigans.

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“Just let the wind untie my perfumed hair…” or, Who Is Tahirih?, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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A woman sings behind a gauzy white curtain. We cannot see her face, but in her soaring cries we hear her passion. This is Tahirih, born in what is now Iran in the early 1800’s (we don’t know her exact date of birth because authorities burned these documents after her execution). She is a poet, theologist and women’s rights activist, and she has enough followers that the country views her as a national threat to the patriarchal Islam that requires women to be veiled in public.

In the days leading up to her execution, Delia Olam plays people from Tahirih’s life, unfolding her biography, teachings and radical actions. These we see plainly, but Tahirih is always behind the curtain, playing and singing. As the revered and reviled woman is sculpted through the accounts of others whilst her face remains hidden, she becomes mythical and hugely powerful, a revolutionary who’s life is tragically cut short.

Olam’s script and performance meld into a fluid solo performance that is a fitting tribute to such a remarkable woman. Her physical and vocal distinction between the handful of characters she plays is detailed and precise. A servant, Tahirih’s father, an executioner, and a female follower are crafted in detail, and all visited by the audience who go to these people to discover more about this woman who is revolutionary, dangerous, or both. This is excellent clarification of the audience/character relationship in solo performance format – it makes sense with the play’s circumstances and embeds the audience in the action. There is none of the talking out into undefined space or invisible characters that alienates the audience and removes the character from reality, something that often occurs in solo performance. Across these characters in different places and with different relationships to Tahirih, there is still a clear, well-proportioned narrative arc building to an awful end.

The scenes themselves are well-crafted and provide a snapshot of the landscape of attitudes towards women in Iran at the time. They are simply staged and prettily enhanced with candlelight, their simple, calming beauty juxtaposes the inevitable prospect of her death. Transitions are a touch slow; some are smoothed with recorded music whereas others have silent gaps as Olam transforms in and out of Tahirih, who sings and plays between characters. The silences make for a choppy disruption, but this is a minor issue easily forgiven in view of the story’s excellent construction and execution.

To learn about such a remarkable woman through a strong show and performance feels as much of a privilege as it is an education. Olam has fantastic instinct for storytelling and character development, and this detailed show needs hardly any improvement. Do not miss it.

“Just let the wind untie my perfumed hair…” or, Who Is Tahirih? runs through 29th August.

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