Edinburgh Fringe 2019
A confessional which examines substance misuse, recovery – and celebrity stalking taken to new, inventive heights.
A small Christmas tree is surrounded by empty wine bottles. There is also a lifesize cardboard cutout of Sue Perkins. These visual clues set the scene for “In PurSUEt”, a confessional which examines substance misuse, recovery – and celebrity stalking taken to new, inventive heights.
According to the press release the piece is “inspired by true events”. Eleanor Higgins plays “Woman” – who is struggling to cope with what the band Bastille have so aptly called “the weight of living”. The audience are her therapist as she relates her descent into near alcoholism and depression. The opening beats of the show are very much about denial, but it soon becomes clear that there’s a problem. You’re drinking a bit too much. You notice it might be a glass or two before you eat, then you realise you’re not eating at all – but still drinking. Who of your friends or family are going to tell you? The line “I had a few wines” takes on deeper significance as the play progresses, moving from bravura to resignation.
There is a beacon of light though – maybe if she dates her obsession, Sue, everything will be alright. They are both in the same sort of field – that would work. Never mind that Sue already has a partner, “Woman” is, in her own words, “a really hot lesbian”, so no contest. The skewed logic of the girl in the grip of the bottle begins to play out in a series of set pieces, punctuated with a bit of commentary with her shrink. As the addiction increases, the thrill-seeking odds ramp up, from a distant glimpse of her heroine in a bookshop to a full-on reconnaissance mission backstage in a tv studios. Of course she has to justify herself being in these places, so close to Sue and some of the invented excuses are simultaneously very funny and deliciously cringe-worthy.
The resolution is the realisation that it’s not Sue who’s the problem here – it’s what’s in “Woman”‘s glass. She mentions that she sings early in the show and we are treated to a little of her vocal talent in the rather moving closing moments. Somehow, we feel, the corner has been turned. Perhaps we can all feel that.
The show runs at only forty-five minutes but feels nicely rounded. Higgins has already had a full life, training at the Royal Academy of Music, then the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts – a decade of work as a performer has now been enriched by a diploma in advanced psychology. This is Higgins’ first venture into this type of work – I look forward to seeing future offerings.