Edinburgh Fringe 2023
In this one-woman comedy, Sydney-based comedian Charlotte Grimmer is the patient and the audience is her new therapist, which she has been court-mandated to see. In the 50-minute appointment (there’s a clock on the wall so “you can know exactly how long its been”), Charlotte explains just how much she does not need therapy through stories about her eating disorder and aspirations to be the next Gwyneth Paltrow. Did we mention she does this all while playing the keyboard and redecorating the office?
“Nothing is original, is it?” Charlotte asks her audience as she drags her keyboard onto the stage. Of course, there are many solo shows by women in this year’s Fringe, some of which also deal with the issues of ED, ADHD, or parasocial relationships, and some of them even involve a keyboard. But to say “nothing is original” while watching Grimmer sashay intuitively across the stage (in all black like a blonder, more unhinged version of Audrey Hepburn in ‘Funny Face’) is too much of an oversimplification. Grimmer, an Australian Catherine Tate with a dash of Kristin Wiig and the musical timing of Rachel Bloom, raises the bar with her spot-on deliveries and hilarious observations. “Everyone is a therapist today,” says Grimmer, and in this case she means both literally and figuratively, as she has transformed the audience into her court-appointed therapist, going so far as to give them each a pen and paper and encouraging them to write their notes and apply the provided star stickers. She manages to straddle the line between acknowledging the importance of therapy while lampooning our culture’s sudden fluency in its vernacular, and she does it deftly. The songs, which I can still break out into (and do) days later range from the showtuney “I’m skinny and hot, I’m everything you’re not” to a song about binge eating that wouldn’t be out of place at a Lilith Fair concert. In another, she pointedly sings about the media’s role in eating disorders, warning that “you’ll die chasing the lie ”. Despite what might seem to be heavy material, there is never a moment where you feel like you can’t laugh. It is all delivered with warmth, energy, and skill that is impossible to not be charmed by.
Putting on a solo show at the Fringe isn’t that different from going to your first round of therapy. In both circumstances, the patient/performer must be completely vulnerable in a setting where you don’t know if that vulnerability will pay off. Grimmer slyly asks if she is a favorite patient, but not before telling us of the perils of assuming a relationship simply because someone is kind to you. Hard work pays off, she muses, but wonders if it could really have been hard work if it hasn’t paid off. In this way, it becomes therapeutic for those of us experiencing the Fringe in a similar way, and Grimmer almost becomes our therapist, and round and round it goes in a delightfully meta mobius strip.
‘Initial Consult’ is the best sort of comedy solo show, one that sticks with you long after you’ve seen it and makes you smile at its memory. I would see it again, even if I can’t claim more money back on my parents’ health care.