Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Kirsty has cystic fibrosis. She is literally drowning from the inside out. She appears onstage with an actor as she explains how this diagnosis has affected her life and curtailed her singing; she does not reveal herself until the end as both claim to be the ACTUAL Kirsty. It could be a haunting experience as everything in Kirsty’s story is real or at least true, but she keeps it light for us. We hear of her diagnosis, see her enter hospital, see her get out of it and hear of her future. We are made aware of just how this experience, of performing for us and at the Fringe may have affected her and we enjoy being a part of her unimaginable optimism. It’s a tale of hope and nothing is negative in the room.
There are two people in front of us in white jump suits, devoid of colour with a blue wash that has a sterile quality. That sterility is clearly an obvious nod to the medical issues faced by Kirsty. There are two of them because there is always the possibility that Kirsty will be unable to perform. The interplay between them when they are speaking at the same time leads to some fine banter and interaction; it’s a settling time for the audience as we begin to think, surely that aint her, surely they wouldn’t bring an ill girl to perform for the likes of us; clever them…
Cumbernauld have and done so proudly and what a performance it is. Kirsty engages from the beginning to the end with her bright and enthralling stage presence. Chief cheerleader for Team Kirsty actually IS Kirsty so no need for negative options. She has, along with her partner, got this theatrical performance malarkey down to a fine art. She draws us in softly, makes herself vulnerable for our enjoyment, points out the challenges of being in hospital and the joy of being released.
There are hidden gems throughout the script; the best is the “bet that surprised you” throwaway line. But it never asks for sympathy, but you feel it.
Ed Robson has done his usual. This is a well directed job in making sure that the elements of which tiredness are taken account and there is a true theatrical genius in taking what we hear on the street and putting it right at the heart of a theatre. He has not gone for the sympathy card but provoked the get this and understand it deck of cards instead.
It is this visual metaphor which is truly at the heart of the performance.
Cumbernauld are challenging us to consider not what 32% lung capacity will feel like, not what reduced life expectancy will do to you but to marvel at the voice. It sings beautifully and whilst Kirsty might not love the inability to sing as she mourns what she loses, we also mourn for what we have lost too. Kirsty may be able to fake being well but she cannot kid on that she was not born to perform.
The soundscape and the staging were perfect and underpinned the themes of the whole performance. It was also good to see the preparation for the hospital in such stark terms – jammies (new ones) and the bag (the usual one) meant we got some colour, light and shade.
Pity performances and misery novels were once all the rage. Shock was used to get us to confront reality and “truth” as it made us sit up and take notice. Then came things like famine fatigue as we got less and less able to take in the enormity of things that have devastated people. You cannot watch this and not be affected. You cannot see this and not admire the bravery. You cannot applaud without understanding that the art is what made it sing in my heart, dance in my mind and make me look forward to what Kirsty does next…