Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Character Flaw is Philippa Dawson’s own tail of living – and being diagnosed with ADHD. More than a story-telling piece of theatre, audiences are invited into the mind of ‘Pip’, as she navigates a life full of missed deadlines, lost objects and many, many trains.
We are introduced to Pip as she comes bustling onto the stage, coffee in hand and arms full of luggage. As she sets her bags down, she not only begins to unpack her belongings, but her mind as well. What unfolds is a 50-minute tale of a young person trying to understand why she can’t keep her train on the right track.
As Pip’s story unfolds – or leaves the station – we begin to gain an insight into living with what Pip eventually learns is ADHD. We hear how her mind is full of tangents, thoughts, emotions, and ideas, but never clear directions. She tells us stories of failed house and pet sitting jobs and flawed relationships. We are introduced to Jean; the voice in Pips head, and her most trusted friend and confidant. But more importantly, we begin to try and understand how a young person is introduced to the concept that – maybe – she’s doesn’t just have her head in the clouds. There might be reason why her many trains can’t stay on their tracks.
Introduced to the concept of ADHD, as well as navigating her queer sexuality, a story unfolds before, during and after diagnosis.
Written and performed by Philippa Dawson, we are fortunate to see a piece performed exactly the way it was intended. We can feel the words roll off the tongue the same way they flowed on the page. Her energy, raw emotion and at times anger, are present in every sentence Pip delivers.
The show is presented largely on a bare stage, thought it doesn’t stay that way for long. Not only filled with possessions, Philippa uses the stage to her full advantage. She moves across the space with a sense of urgency that matches the dialogue one moment, then slows down to almost a snail’s pace the next. The lighting serves to transition from one focus to another, while also portraying key moments with rainbow chasers – though sometimes just a little distracting.
And then there’s the use of sound and voice over, which transitioned a solo-show into a character-filled production. As well as Jean, Philippa’s clever continuation of the train analogy has us travel between different stations of the journey with announcements that signal different stages of the performance.
The story itself did feel a little disjointed at times, however, as we were introduced to several ‘flaws’ or mishaps, only to have the ending withheld until later. By the time we hear the end of each tail, we’ve almost forgotten what the beginning was, and the impact was lost.
What is evident about this show, is the genuine love, passion, and talent Philippa has for story-telling and performing. We don’t just hear about her road to being diagnosed, coming to terms with and living with ADHD, we fell her emotions and ride along with them. Not only that, but we get to learn a little as well. Perhaps even learn a little about ourselves.
Heartfelt, connected and more than just a little bit touching, Character Flaw is a train ride you’ll be glad you hopped on board for.