Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Birdie’s a hoarder. The neighbours call her a harridan and a harpy, although most have never even met her. They see her hoard as a hazard for house prices. But it isn’t rubbish. It’s her life’s work and it exists because years ago something deeply cherished was stolen, and Birdie’s not been able to give up anything since.
Su Pollard has had a long career on the stage and television but this first Edinburgh Fringe. She is appearing as Birdie in Harpy, a solo play written for her by the award winning writer, Philip Meeks (Fringe First for Kiss Me Honey Honey).
Meeks has created Birdie, one of those elderly women who are almost invisible, or would be if she would only stop performing her own version of karaoke with a portable CD player and the hair straiteners in the middle of the night. She lives surrounded by clutter and is the despair of the local social services department.
As she struggles to deal with officialdom and her fears of losing her home and independence we gradually learn something of the pain in her past that has led to hoard, or as she puts it, preseve… stuff.
In an ideal world the set would have more clutter but this is the fringe. If the play has a further life there is a wonderful opportunity for a set designer to go to town. It is ambitious to choose to do a show about hoarding where backstage storage is almost non existant and get in/out times severely restricted. Hats off to the crew!
At the same time the director could have made more of the set – talks of swimming through the clutter but there was no action around the stuff, and little use made of the boxes. She performed mostly in the space in the middle, the clutter didn’t encroach on her life or the social worker in any visual way. A missed opportunity.
The script is full of bitingly funny lines delivered by Pollard with acerbic and self deprecating wit. The quieter more reflective moments didn’t work as well, with a lack of variety in pace and texture. This may have been in part because the space isn’t ideal for this piece, being long and narrow so she had to reach a long way back. The effect was to lose a lot of the subtlety of the script and some of the impact of the story she reveals.
Overall this is show that attempts to bring the reality of hoarding out of the ‘just sort it out’ and into the the light where it can be seen as the mental health disorder that it is. I’d love to see it in a more intimate space that would allow the emotional power of it to emerge; through both the text and the physical experience and exhaustion of hoarding.