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Brighton Fringe 2019

Intolerable Side Effects

Claire Parry

Genre: Clown, Comedy, Feminist Theatre

Venue: The Warren


Low Down

In this skilfully performed and surprisingly powerful clown polemic, Claire Parry lays bare the unfair distribution of responsibility between genders when it comes to contraception. Dressed as a rabbit.


I walked into the theatre as a man who’d never really questioned the politics of contraception, and I walked out convinced that the gender disparity in contraceptive responsibility is one of the top five injustices facing our modern world. For a piece to have such a profound effect on this hardened theatre critic’s political stance, and for it to simultaneously provide such a stream of delightful belly-chuckles, it must be doing something right.

The chief way in which this show achieves its magic is by transposing the human to the leporine (I had to look that up – it means “to do with rabbits”). The masterstroke of making the main character a rabbit is both thematically illuminating and rich in comic potential. Rabbits are renownedly randy, a trait they share with our heroine Diane, hence the urgency in acquiring effective contraception that kickstarts the whole saga. Instead of taking a contraceptive pill, Diane is encouraged to eat celery. Instead of the standard side-effects that accompany pill-taking, Diane’s chief side-effect is a little more…Thumper from Bambi, perhaps. These parallels distance us from the immediacy of the message, allowing it to seep in more subtly. And more funnylike.

The script is perhaps surprisingly unpuntastic – as far as I recall, there’s no bunny in the oven, no hopping into bed, no digging yourself into a hole. Again, it’s subtler than that. Cleverer.

Though it’s a solo show, many characters populate the stage, drawn in varying degrees of detail. One particularly effective character, who appears only in the form of a pre-recorded voice, is the utterly frustrating family planning nurse who prescribes Diane’s contraceptives and completely fails to hear her complaints about their bizarre side-effects. Without giving too much away, during the play’s fabulous musical denouement, there’s a moment of redemption for this character which in an instant transforms her from two- to three-dimensional and gives us all hope that one day we will be listened to.

Claire Parry is an extremely adept physical clown, with lightning-fast character changes, particularly borne out by her presentation of the suave cliché-spouting buck (a male rabbit – again, had to look it up) who Diane dates on Tinder (the obligatory swiping scene during which she finds her match is hilarious).

This is a wonderfully loveable hour of entertainment that left me feeling all warm and fluffy. It achieves its intended goal of bringing an under-discussed facet of gender relations into the spotlight, and, into the bargain, introduces the world to a top-notch comic performer and writer. I sincerely hope there will be a continuation to Diane’s saga. I’ll be there on the front row, shaking my celery.