mon 20/09/2021

Edinburgh Fringe 2021: Fear of Roses / Myra's Story | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2021: Fear of Roses / Myra's Story

Edinburgh Fringe 2021: Fear of Roses / Myra's Story

A head-spinning thriller and a heart-wrenching monologue at Assembly venues

A switchback ride through corporate intrigue: 'Fear of Roses'Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller

Fear of Roses Assembly Roxy ★★

One of the more disconcerting aspects to this year’s Fringe is different venues’ contrasting reactions to the easing of Covid restrictions. Some – like Army @ The Fringe and the Traverse Theatre – maintain limited audience numbers and careful distancing, as well as insisting on mask wearing. The Stand at the Corn Exchange even requires a negative lateral flow test for entry. Others, like Assembly, have performing spaces packed with audience members sitting shoulder to shoulder, and mask wearing apparently voluntary (though there are bars within the performing spaces). For some visitors, it’s no doubt a welcome return to pre-pandemic habits. It’s somewhat surprising, all the same, to see punters directed to fill seats in the middle of a mass of people when a show that’s not sold out has plenty of empty spaces nearer the back.

That aside, Fear of Roses in Assembly Roxy is a lot of fun, and even if it requires several huge leaps in suspending disbelief, its seemingly unending twists within twists just about make up for how implausible the whole thing really is. Tabby and Nicolette are old university friends who now find themselves as high-powered corporate boss and lowly assistant, both struggling to climb the greasy pole against a backdrop of post-pandemic streamlining. But when a mystery figure sets out to blackmail Tabby because of past misdemeanours, things quickly spiral into an ever-shifting vortex of who knew what about whom, how and when.

Though it makes a few questionable generalisations about corporate life, the script by Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller (who also directs) is a fast-paced, switchback ride through jealousy, intrigue and betrayal, shot through with nicely observed touches: literally asking your PA to wipe the shit from your shoes might not be the subtlest of signifiers, but it hits the spot. His cast – Amy Gilbrook as a swaggering Tabby, Amelia Chinnock-Schumann as put-upon Nicolette, and Daniella Cunliffe as the threatening intruder – are somewhat variable but nonetheless game for the play’s rather preposterous twists and turns, and Brimmer-Beller keeps up the pace and surprises in a fluid, assured staging. With kick-off at 11am, Fear of Roses will wake up anyone’s Fringe day with a bang – and even finds a new way of solving Chekhov’s famous dictum about bringing a gun on stage.

Myra's StoryMyra's Story Assembly George Square Gardens ★★

In George Square, in the equally packed-out Palais du Variété Spiegeltent, Myra’s Story offers plenty of laughs, though its humour grows darker and bleaker as the heartbreaking solo play progresses. Across the course of its carefully constructed 90 minutes, we hear virtually all of Myra’s life story, from Irish working-class beginnings through marriage and childbirth to – well, a slow unravelling of virtually everything, leaving her alone and alcoholic on the streets. But if the show follows an unavoidably dark trajectory, it’s one that’s expertly paced in its inevitable descent by the brilliantly written script by Brian Foster, who also directs. Foster clearly has a love of language and anecdote, and a keen ear for dialect and character in some exquisitely observed set pieces, but it’s the journey he traces from youthful hope to disillusion and resignation that really takes the play to another level.

That, and the exceptional performance from Fionna Hewitt-Twamley (pictured above), who embodies Myra emotionally and physically – in all her defiance and desperation – as well as playing a whole cast of vivid supporting characters, from chain-smoking matriarch of the street Bridie to scrounging coquette Tina, never too ashamed to wheedle your last morsel of food from you. Though Hewitt-Twamley’s Myra is far too proud ever to ask for our sympathy, it’s what she inevitably gains through tales of her everyday tragedies and her gritted-teeth humour, so that the only response to the quiet close of her performance is stunned silence.

Fear of Roses' seemingly unending twists within twists just about make up for how implausible the whole thing really is

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