Brighton FringeDramaReviewSouth East

BRIGHTON FRINGE: Blooming – Sweet Dukebox

Writer: Patrick Sandford with Lauren O’Dair
Performers: Patrick Sandford and Lauren O’Dair
Reviewer: Glen Pearce

There’s a myth, Patrick Sandford tells us at the start of Blooming, that a rose begins its life with its thorns on the inside but as it blooms it pushes those thorns outwards. It’s may be horticulturally incorrect but it’s a powerful metaphor not only for Sandford’s life but for all of us.

Last year Sandford shared his brutally honest, autobiographical show Groomed at Brighton Fringe, recount the pain of him being abused as a child. Blooming is in many ways a sequel, looking at how we overcome trauma and what happiness means. As Sandford explains, happiness is a much harder story to tell, after all in pantomime the ‘happily ever after’ happens after the curtain falls.

Although still deeply personal to Sandford, Blooming though takes a wider look at what we need to overcome trauma in our lives and to bloom. We may not escape our demons, and it may not be a journey we ever fully complete but it’s a vital journey we all need to take.

Sandford is joined in this show by actor-musician Lauren O’Dare. O’Dare peppers the show with musical interludes but is far more than a mere accompanist; part muse, part inner voice, part sparring partner O’Dare allows Sandford the voice he often struggles to find.

That’s not to say Sandford isn’t an accomplished orator, far from it. His theatrical pedigree shines through the work but this isn’t some remote audience/performer relationship. We are treated with such warmth and honesty that it’s as if Sandford is speaking to each of us directly. There are moments that Sandford clearly finds difficult to discuss and those moments resonate strongly that there’s many a stifled tear but the resounding message here is of recovery, acceptance and growth.

‘Wounds give you gifts’ Sandford explains in the show and the ultimate gift of this show is to recognise that our lives may not be perfect but we can, with time and with love blooming.

Whatever has caused our pain; grief, pain, abuse or even traumatic relationships, we need the space, courage and support to move on. The backdrop to the show may state ‘I’ve been to hell and back and let me tell you, it was wonderful’ but this show is far from hellish. On the contrary, the sheer shared humanity highlighted by Sandford and O’Dair make you want to leave the theatre and hug the first person you meet.

A moving, touching and poignant show that is also filled with warmth and inspiration. Blooming should be available to everyone on the NHS. Essential viewing for anyone looking to be a more rounded human being.


Runs until 28 May 2017 at Sweet Dukebox| Image: Peter Williams  |  @brightonfringe

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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