Browse reviews

Fringe Online 2021

Low Down

Written and performed by Leigh Douglas, Directed by Fiona Kingwill, Movement Director Amy Warren, Lighting Designer Timothy Kelly, Producer Heather Lai

Video team: ShootMedia Executive Producer Elliott Cranmer, Producer Joshua Valanzuolo, Production Manager Nishita Ruparelia, DOP Harry Andrews, Camera Operator Adam Newland, Sound Recordist Jack Sandham, Editor Dom Ellis

Till May 12th


A young woman stands in a simple penitent dress on a bare stage – with shifting lighting. She’s making a confession, several on fact. An Irish catholic girl might seem commonplace, though less commonly one who still needs faith in the 21st century.

‘It’s entirely possible you’ve written me off since the day I put on my Repeal the 8th jumper and aren’t even listening now because of the way I voted. Both times. Sorry about that. Actually no. I’m sorry, God, I’m not sorry…’ No, to make it tolerable, it’ll be in the third person.

Writer/performer Leigh Douglas’ storytelling from the opening dance-moves dictated by an ex-gymnast nun to the breakfast table with the whole four generations of family is hypnotically delivered, down to the nursing aunt glad first-cousin-once-removed Geraldine sloughed off that boy now run to fat for an accountant; though in her day you had to ask a priest, and only going out a year…. With a gallimaufry of voices and gestures, Douglas invokes a world.

There’s convent school: ‘With blood streaming down his face… in Jesus’ day it was OK for boys to have long hair streaming down from their heads.’ It’s her father’s second marriage, he’s not quite a Catholic any more. But you have to turn to something he says. That’s the signal note of this girl’s life.

It’s a recognisably modern world. ‘Do gay people go to hell?’ she asks father. ‘Father Paul says they don’t… I always think that’s why he wasn’t made a bishop.’ Mother and grandmother though are conservative. The present-day Catholic church with its fissures, beleaguered, held up by its congregation’s often desperate needs. Negotiating sacraments, sin and redemption is a hopscotched minefield.

So as soon as she loses her virginity at sixteen with a boy – well he’d been with her idol Catherine – there’s the Sacrament talk with Ashling.  ‘On your wedding night you consummate, you give the gift of your body’ and not before. The Catholic rhythm method, glimpses of oxytosin used up with impure thoughts, more than one partner.

When her lover dumps her for Wales Uni it’s a liberation. Uni in England’s a revelation too. Sophie, sophisticated, mildly scornful: ‘Staring morosely into a pint in the way only a true lesbian can.’ They’re off to a Saturday night beaver. And an earnest boy takes her to a happy-clappy church. Then it goes really wrong. Sophie’s there; so are visiting aunts ‘one world crashing in on one another’. ‘Aren’t you proud your great grandfather was Wicklow commander with the original IRA?’ Imagine Sophie impressed with toasts to Michael Collins; a crash-course in Catholic goss. But then there’s Sophie’s twenty-first and flashbacks.

Douglas brilliantly evokes sudden conflicts and denials, the way culture and sexuality explode. And she finds she’s not the only one conflicted. Permission is found in the most unexpected place. And so, heart-warmingly back home, is something else.

A revelation, superbly written, acted and realised. An essential enlightenment. Comparisons have been made with Eimear McBride’s magnificent A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing – adapted for the stage by Annie Ryan. I can think of no higher praise either. You must see this.