ComedyFeaturedFestivalsReviewSouth East

BRIGHTON FRINGE: Linda(?) – The Actors Theatre

Reviewer: James Walsh

A surreal and moving exploration of feminine panic by up-and-coming clown Ellie Brewster.

First, all we see are a pair of gloves behind a screen. After some emu-style hand antics, which go on (artfully) too long, Linda(?) emerges from her portable curtain, ass-first, to wild applause, and then… and then. What is supposed to happen next?

What happens if you freeze like a rabbit in the headlights? Are a smile and wild, pleading eyes ever enough?

This is wonderful stuff, though some in the audience give the impression they’ve never seen silent clowning before, and take a while to understand how to react.

This is feminine catering (in both senses – there is a lot of cake), passivity and accommodation to the point of chaos. Here, this is served to us by a young woman with an expressive, horrified face, dressed in shocking pink, who wants to make sure we’re having a good time even if it kills her.

First in the guise of a psychedelic Lyons waitress (ask your great-grandmother), and then as the glamorous birthday party girl, Brewster offers us cake from increasingly unlikely places, all topped with delicious squirty cream and squirmy audience members.

Her face – Linda(?)’s face – is endlessly fascinating, and carries the first quarter of this show with desperate mugging alone. From here, we’re treated to a physical performance with notes of doomed 1920s servant, a doomed 1950s air hostess, and doomed 1970s Abba fan.

The awkwardness is the point, and the repetition of a seventies classic is the Simpsons Sideshow Bob rake scene with added pink sunglasses and costume change.

This is people-pleasing to the point of hysteria, and Linda(?) leaves heavy questions hanging in the air about the ongoing expectations and performance of gender.

How is a woman supposed to look? How is a woman supposed to act? These are existential questions, but ones mined very richly here, especially during the section where Linda(?) poses for an audience member’s photos. In this era where the young are defined by what they share online more than ever, Brewster’s material throw social media vanity and the infinity of digital imagery into sharp, hysterical relief.

While there are no problems with the show being wordless, there are some minor pacing issues that, when fixed, will help shy audiences along with Linda(?)’s world. The opening, while clearly deliberate, tested the patience of some of the more confused punters, and this could be fixed without damaging the show’s delightfully uncompromising nature.

When things go wrong, as they surely must, Linda(?) is extraordinary. But what lingers is that sense of a character doing what they have been told is the right thing by the patriarchy and society as a whole, to their own evident discomfort and potential catastrophe.

It’s silly, it’s a mess, but it’s also deeply thought-provoking.

Reviewed on the 4th May

The Reviews Hub Score

Silly and thought Provoking

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