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Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Love. Guts. High School

Jeanette Bonner

Genre: Solo Show

Venue: Sweet Grassmarket (Venue 18) at Just Festival (Venue 127)


Low Down

A solo show about  how rough the path to love can be in high school 


This solo show is difficult to nail down precisely – but all the more delightful for that reason. Chick-flick doc, rom-com with reality check – however you choose to describe it – this is a warm, funny and ultimately moving  journey from angsty teen to confident woman, taking familiar themes and giving them a new gloss.
Jeanette Bonner portrays herself and the various men (and women) in her life so far, shifting easily between them with a slouch of a hip or a wry grin. We first meet her as a young teen, lying on the floor of her bedroom, singing her current favourite tune.  Taking us into her confidence, she waxes lyrical about the smartest boy in the class – and whether he has a crush on her. By turns we meet her careers advisor and feel charmed by Bonner’s breathless, energy-filled, hormones a-go-go young woman, with her eyes on the prize.
We meet the other girls in her high school class and enjoy their experiences of educational trips and social meetings, which gradually bring the girl and the object of her affection together – as friends. Time rolls by and despite others vying for her attention, it is ultimately Gabe Klein – her friend – to whom she gives up her virginity, opening up a direct emotional connection with us. This crucial event is the trigger for the rest of the story.
She eventually moves on to New York and via other relationships towards a more mature understanding of love and commitment, all the time unfolding this with her body language and vocal precision. Quite often these are really subtle and understated changes, which contrast nicely with the brasher characters she creates. Towards the end of the piece there is a clear articulation of the feeling we all have at some stage in our lives when we meet someone from our past – a longing to replay events or relief that you have moved on. The bitter-sweet raw emotion and the honesty of Bonner’s performance is quite captivating. If I have a small constructive criticism to offer, it is that the whole piece is told chronologically and that it might be worth examining the structure (which is episodic in nature anyway) to spring a surprise or two along the way.
That aside, this is a very entertaining glimpse into the private world of an American teen and the rite of passage into womanhood. It’s also an examination of what love is – and what it’s like to fall in it – and indeed, whether you really know that at the time. Well worth seeing.