Brighton Fringe 2021
Directed by Karoline Gable, Book/Lyricist/ Lizzy Connolly, and starring Music/main Lyricist Miracle Chance write this Tara Sandilands Productions of Sitting Pretty. Lighting by Connolly Stage manager and tech manager: Elliott. Till June 16th.
Idriss’ theatre credits include Five Guys Named Moe, Wicked, Shrek, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Scottsboro Boys, The Lion King and Thriller Live.
Geneviève’s theatre credits include Chicago, Pippin, Producers, A Chorus Line, Spamalot, Guys and Dolls and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Katrina’s theatre credits include Brief Encounter, Cabaret, Crazy For You, The Tempest, Mrs Henderson Presents and Once.
Miracle’s theatre credits include Be More Chill, Rocky Horror Show, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Christmasaurus Live and Footloose.
EPK: Sitting Pretty EPK
Sometimes rushing through rain to a venue at 21.00, listening to a London livestream that’s overrun and threatens to clash, you wonder why you said you’d write up a show which opens in a few minutes with four characters gyrating a late-night cabaret feel to a rain-selected audience of 20, full of goof and glitch jokes.
Within a few minutes, you wonder why the pop musical wasn’t on the livestream from London. Directed by Karoline Gable, Book/Lyricist Lizzy Connolly’s and starring music/main lyricist/actor Miracle Chance’s Sitting Pretty is that good, that promising.
Heralded as ‘female masturbation, butter, 90s nostalgia mother/daughter relationships and millennial meltdowns’ there’s a reason this is screamingly funny but also why the central character screams for the first three of her 28 days. There’s a reason for the number, too. Expect glitch feminism, late capitalist exploitation and being washed up at 28.
Yes it’s a typical lockdown story. But starts with the deftest use of off-kilter white rap you’ll see fall apart at its liberal seams. Someone who steps out of their rhythm, just as those voices appear. As real as the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms. That’s other poets he created, other selves with other lives and styles. And that’s what the central character gets here. Critical friends.
The timing, lighting and acrobatic dancing of this quartet is frankly breathtaking, not at all what you’d expect of a small-scale fringe show; and to encounter it like this is more than a shock. It’s running at 6.30 as well as 9.30, but seems a blaze of noon. Composer/lyricist Miracle Chance’s own performance certainly blazes.
Music’s pop-inspired, widely differing in tone, rhythmically inventive with lyrics and memorable; and the lyrics are full of sly wit. All four sing well and one or two have trained voices to project power too.
Miracle Chance’s Carly is born around 1994: a year or so younger than those towering politicos like Ash Sarkar and Grace Blakeley, or hordes of high-achievers in the arts; and a shade old to be a Zoomer influencer. Being a white late Millennial in lockdown is a dead-end to the start of any new era. One that never got started. Years on from graduating as an arts student, massively in debt, wishing you could say loving things, what can you do? Masturbate?
That’s no fun as indeed the explosion of those imaginary friends – all in school ties as they Nijinsky onto the scene – tell you: you’ve got to relax to come. And use butter (cue a musical butter ad). So far so hilarious and exhilarating in its sexual directness. But however graphic not being able to orgasm might be, there’s a reason. Say near the one Sarah Kane gives in 4.48 Psychosis. Despite all the relentless high-kicking hilarity of this show, there’s a plangent arc, a real grief.
Chance has an appealing soprano line with character to it. It’s not a big voice yet, in this musical, but give it time and in any case it’s the music Chance writes that holds everything together.
The other three actors’ credits show you their pedigree, and how the mainstream’s loss has been the early-opening Fringe’s gain. And a belief this show punches way above its weight.
But those other selves are too busy to let go. It’s the way memories come at you, in no particular order. They’re randomly accessed, like much in life. So we’re at the teen sexuality stage, then thrust back to a truly teen reading of Peter Pan where Katrina Kleve’s Peter, Idriss Kargbo ‘s whacky Wendy and Geneviève Nicole’s jealous Tinkerbell all grow horny and predate on each other. This section’s a scream.
As are several others, including Kargbo’s brilliance in a dusky pink dress and an energetic number on identity, and a superbly subversive Free Britney moment, where we get Kleve’s turn for the spotlight and a slinky dance routine edged with the panic (original Greek and modern sense) of the pop-star. Again we touch on mental health, Spears being incarcerated ‘for her own good’ like One Flew Over the Rockstar’s Nest.
A brief tender moment of Carly’s eighth birthday and how to say ‘I love you’ in a duet with Chance and Nicole as her mother. And then there’s Stockholm Syndrome as three kidnappers find the wrong girl in the right house. Can she say her prayers? Will she slip away as everyone else prays instead like a revival meeting. Each of these segments, these ensemble routines are more than funny, getting to you on another level.
28 days. That’s a complete cycle and one in microcosm lockdown as we’re treated to a life in eruption, a Prelude in Pieces, and not in any neat order. Nor perhaps should it be. Carly is apologetic as she sings of her TV DVD VHS…. And her mother. She recalls her own birthday, her mum’s. Chance has the power to draw you down to the end, which is wholly unexpected and very quiet indeed.
The energy, power and pizzazz of this show isn’t muted by the piano sound design overpowering some of the lyrics at moments. Attempts are being made to correct this. The lighting’s literally spot-on and the scene-shifts cracking. There’s an occasional ‘what next?’ feel as if the emotional arc mightn’t have quite settled on the reason one scene has arrived where it is; but only to the extent that it might seem to lack inevitability in a show which is certainly about that.
And that too might be the point: we’re treated to 28 days in a life hollowed out in a hollow time of lockdown. The actors are almost beyond praise in what they manage on stage and in charactering their roles as well as dance them. Karoline Gable’s Direction too is exceptionally tight. On this showing creators Chance and Connolly should have a very bright future indeed.
In its 45 minutes it’s a show of enormous appeal, both technically and creatively; but above all in its emotional depth and arrival. Kane, through all her shock language and technique, was writing of love: its possibility, its loss. Very differently, Sitting Pretty is too. Its style is fun, its message is grieving. When you see this show return, it’ll be outstanding, and in the frame for awards.