Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Scarlet Shambles: It Used To Be Me
Charmaine Wombwell in association with Susanna Jeffery
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
An exploration of love, loss and heartbreak through song, dark clowning – and incorporating British Sign Language making it a very accessible performance for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Charmaine Wombwel enters singing plaintively of love, drawing the audience in as she heads for the tiny stage, in the rather grandly titled ‘Salvation Room’ at Just the Tonic at the bottom of Niddrie Street. In reality it is a tiny cave with a stage that resembles a stone shelf. But Wombwel makes good use of every inch of it in this 50 minute solo show recounting her early ups and downs in love – in song and dark clowning with just a sprinkle of storytelling.
It is a tale, or experience, of growing up – first love, overwhelming passion and the desperation of heartbreak. There isn’t really a story as such but the simplicity of the telling allows everyone in the audience to remember their own experiences, I was surrounded by smiles and chuckles – and the painful moments had the audience rigid in their seats.
As a performer she is thoroughly versatile with an earthy singing voice (she also writes all her own songs), an ability to flick into other other characters and accents, facial expressions that tell an entire story in a blink and physical movements that engage not just your mind but your body. I found myself reacting physically to some of her unexpected moves. She is absorbing to watch and listen to and the show is full of surprising moments that I am not going to spoil by describing here.
One of the most innovative things about this show is that Wombwel, who grew up with BSL as her first language (her parents are profoundly deaf) weaves signing into her storytelling. It becomes part of the movement not an interpretive activity happening to one side. Whilst that wouldn’t be practical in every show she demonstrates an approach to inclusivity that others could learn from.
This is a young show developed to bring to Edinburgh – she describes it as a child that she would like to nurture and help to grow but that does not mean that any part of it is under rehearsed or that she gives anything less than her all to it. However, there is scope to develop it further. There is a nice mix of song, clowning and storytelling but much of the show is at a similar pace – a little more variety and range there would take the show up yet another gear.
Overall, this is a delightful little gem hiding in a slightly damp cave – the sort of thing we all want to find at the Fringe, it really couldn’t happen anywhere else. See it now while you can still claim to have discovered a major talent.