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Edinburgh Fringe 2019

How to Save a Life

Glass Half Full Theatre

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Theatre

Venue: Underbelly


Low Down

Written & Directed by Stephanie Silver and in support of ‘Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’, we follow the story of cervical cancer patient Melissa. Looking back at her life and the key moments within it, we see the battle between coming to terms with her diagnosis and making use of the time she has left with her loved ones.


The show is based around a young girl in her 20’s called Melissa. She wakes up in heaven and starts to tell us about her life and how it came to a tragic end. Sadly, Melissa developed cervical cancer and we follow her interactions with her best friend, boyfriend and doctors throughout the show. These flashbacks lead up to Mellissa organising her own ‘Cancer Party’ to celebrate her life rather than dwelling on it. Which of course, doesn’t make sense to the people closest to her in the slightest.

As we enter the space all three actors are on the stage. The room is dominated by large helium balloons and glitter. As an audience we instantly know the setting of the piece due to the props and staging. Although, if this piece was to be developed further it would be interesting to see how it would fair being played ‘in-the-round’. This could create a more immersive experience and allow the audience to feel as if they were also guests at the party.

This original script combines dark satire, references to pop-culture and sensitive interactions between the characters perfectly. In fact, this show is actually very funny! But due to the hard-hitting topic, there were many occasions where as an audience we felt we shouldn’t laugh. Although, as the show progresses we learn that the script encourages us to.

The soundtrack to this show is one that we will all be familiar with. Although, I’m not a massive fan of dancing (due to my own ability) and it’s fair to say that this show has lots of it. However, due to the sheer party atmosphere in the room, even I was wiggling in my seat to nostalgic pop tunes from the 1990’s.

One of the strongest parts of this show is the acting. The trio of performers work the dark comedic text with such vigour. They all possess great comic timing and as the story progresses, show their emotions organically, which is not easy. Heather Wilkins (Melissa) acts this challenging leading role just brilliantly and both James Ford (Toby) and Katerina Robinson (Maria) support her with such efficiency. Although, I could see the want in the actor’s eyes to ‘break the fourth wall’ and interact with the audience, and this could allow for even further character development. However, it should be noted that these talented performers don’t leave the stage at any given time. Their emotions are constantly on trial for all to see.

It’s not often that you go to the theatre and witness a show that will make you want to laugh, cry, dance and ponder all within sixty minutes! I guess that’s the beauty of Fringe, you never quite know what you’re going to get. Well this show was certainly a beautiful surprise and warrants many more ticket sales than it is currently getting.