Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Elenor loss her mum when she was very young. From that point onwards, in the search for herself and other human warmth as she explains whilst recording her performance for us. We are watching her live whilst she is projecting it onstage as a stream; we can also watch it online and contribute in a plethora of ways. It is technically spellbinding, but the meat of the show is a narrative which deals with a number of triggering events from that death of her mum through sections which include cancer, booking trips to the Caribbean, trying stalking your ex, happy pills, depression, the yoyoing of a relationship with a man who abuses, and finding God – and nuttier nuts, amongst many other topics.
This is a white knuckle ride through Eleanor Hill’s life. She said it was groundbreaking and wanted that in a review. Well, it kind of is. As we begin with a warning of what is included in the show and the ways in which we can watch as she starts in front of us with a phone on a selfie stick in hand, it’s clear this is going to be very, very different. To start with we have the projection of what we are watching live on a screen behind her. The cleverness of being able to technically record and to have sections and titles projected whilst still holding the phone and performing is laudable. It makes for a slick piece of theatre which allows us to see the inclusion of technology for this age alongside something which is the most important aspect of this – the narrative.
If the story does not make sense or past muster, then the packaging shall not make a difference. Here the narrative does, at times meander a little but that is because of the authenticity of someone telling a story. Opportunities are mined for the visual effect of something – a warning that 90% of this actually happened for example – but it never gives way to being clever because there is a lack of substance to what is being said. If an effect is used – like the 1970’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as voice over – there is a valid reason for its use.
Eleaner Hill is a likeable and vulnerable narrator. The stories she tells ae not just believable because she lived them but are theatrical because they work well in a theatrical setting. Where the technical elements of it are good, they can be very good, and given the amount of interaction that happens, it is hardly surprising when a lip synch is slightly off or the moment needed to breathe and allow the audience to catch up gets missed because a cue is needed to be followed through.
And so, the setting and the costume work alongside as does the soundscape. It makes for a very polished but chaotic show.
Of course, given her age – she is yet but young – you have to ask if there is sufficient material to do any form of biographical show and here it would suggest, even without the use of a squirrel, that there certainly is. It adds to our understanding of the mental health issues faced by people today. For that it becomes slightly timeless and there are plenty of people out there who may want to take back the one person who has been toxic in their lives, as she does and explains it well: toxicity can be very addictive.
By the end, much had been exposed by Eleanor and much had been vulnerable within that. The experiences she shared had been respectful at least to her own dignity, but there is a man somewhere who has had a starring role, and I did wonder if his voice could be heard. Then again, the legal ramifications of that could be tremendous, but it might also break new ground.