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Edinburgh Fringe 2022


Sophie Bentinck

Genre: Biography, Solo Show

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker 2)


Low Down

Sophie Bentinck has an interesting family. The screen on our arrival tells us that our grandmother, when carrying our mother shall have the egg from which we are born already in the forming womb of our mother. Lineage is therefore more than just a discussion point and Sophie discusses her mother and grandmother as well as herself for this fascinating insight into the drama of their past and the events leading up to today. Her mother, Anna has Alzheimer’s, her grandmother, Pauline, died prematurely of an overdose in 1967 and she was a teenager filled with dreams which have culminated in her presence amongst us now. The fascinating journey upon which Sophie went after finding her grandmother’s diaries have managed to fix in her mind childhood memories and to provide a tale more than worth telling for us all. This is a compelling story of women, flawed, strong, vulnerable, human taken through chapters entitled Good Legs, Entirely Unavoidable, Sophie Pop, and Jenny. There were tales of a duel on Hampstead Heath, of champagne and Guinness cocktails, and of a stepdaughter taking a form of revenge at the funeral of her stepmother.


This is a show about a show which includes a narrative about a family. Bentinck arrives to record some material for the show and takes her place, with headphones on and a microphone in front of her centre stage. Speaking to a hidden voice we are introduced to the idea of a person from the past – her grandmother, Pauline. Pauline has a story which ought to spawn several shows, but here we get the one that is central to her own very important identity – how she lived a life full of verve and vigour, how her demons caught her eventually and contributed to her demise.
It was a loss for Sophie as the story she tells uncovers the truth of a woman, left alone with herself and eventually finding life beyond her own coping mechanisms. It is compelling theatre. Bentinck is a fantastic storyteller, and she has crafted the story into an intimate portrait of herself, dealing with Alzheimer’s with her mum, with the shame of the loss of her grandmother who suffered due to an affair her husband had with Jenny and then the relationship between step mum Jenny and stepdaughter, and mother, Anna. It suggests complexity but Bentinck’s skill is that she makes it about being, about the little things which mean large things. Discovering the story of a woman she never knew who could have been an icon who bequeathed her legs, is just too good to ignore.
If the script sets things up with great skill, the performance manages to equal that. I felt part of the show was effective because of how the interaction between Bentinck and the set, the visuals projected, and the audio worked. It had structure to it which allowed each section to develop without confusion. Despite a couple of issues around where the trolley with the recording mike etc were housed, this was well imagined and realised
Technically all the elements were in play and made a significant impact to the tale. Hearing the voices of each in the audio made it exceptionally real as we theatrically traversed from the 1920’s to present day.
Given that Pauline had an accidental overdose, the opportunity to dwell on that fact was avoided and instead we celebrated a life with many tales to tell and many sunglasses behind which to tell it. I am sure Pauline would have been proud.