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Edinburgh Fringe 2015

The Frida Kahlo of Penge West

KPS Productions

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Venue: C nova


Low Down

When quiet, unassertive Zoe lets an old university chum sleep on her sofa for just a couple of nights, little does she realise how her life will change.


Zoe is in love with her boss and is thrilled when he agrees to go to the latest RSC blockbuster with her. Arriving at the box office she meets old university friend and failed actress, Ruth, who flings herself on Zoe’s mercy. A love affair has ended, she needs a place to stay and despite the possibility that Penge West isn’t really in London at all, takes up residence on Zoe’s sofa.

And that’s about as much as she does do. This is a wickedly funny two hander, a sort of Odd Couple on legal highs. And excruciating for anyone who has ever agreed to house a friend in crisis for a few days that turns into weeks.

Tired of Ruth’s unwillingness to lift a finger and endless whinging about the parts she could have done better than whoever is doing them and the breaks she hasn’t had, Zoe finally loses patience and suggests she creates something herself. Seizing on the idea, Ruth insists on instant brainstorming, it will be a brilliant one woman show and, after some dismissing of Zoe’s suggestions, settles on the Brazilian artist, Frida Kahlo. The ever patient (and still in love with her boss) Zoe is drafted in to help with the writing – she does work in a publisher’s after all – and the rehearsals. And, once Ruth’s former lover has refused to take all the male parts, Zoe finds herself in the cast as well. The result is a one woman show with two women in it.

The writing sparkles throughout with lots of memorable and witty moments. However, in addition to the comedy, the play also makes some pertinent observations about the challenges women face in theatre which adds depth to the piece.

Olivia Scott-Taylor as Zoe and Cecily Nash as Ruth provide a strong contrast in character with plenty of verbal and physical sparring and the pace never flags. Despite the extremes of their characters they create two believable and sympathetic women. Nash creates a beautifully drawn neurotic self-absorbed caricature of an actor and Scott-Taylor’s Zoe is so self-deprecating we want to take her home and nurture her.

The set is simple and flexible with additional pieces for the play within a play that have a cartoon feel and ensure a different feel. However, some are a little unwieldy and slow the action although a voice over from the Front of House manager helps to cover them.

The play within a play is very funny and both actors demonstrate their versatility but there is a little too much of it, it slows the journey towards the crisis that precipitates the moment when Zoe finally cracks.  Zoe also proves to be a rather better actor that we have come to expect from her protestations of only having done one university show. I felt there was scope for her to further clown her way through the various male lovers she has been thrust into playing.

Overall this is a witty and sparkling new play; a thoroughly enjoyable hour.