Edinburgh Fringe 2011
A show that delves into the depths of uncensored lust and melodrama. Brandishing her weapon of choice (the selected works of Celine Dion) Harrington takes us through love, losses, and purse-snatching Parisians.
Cabaret is a new category all its own this year at the Fringe and Yorkshire native Sophie Walsh-Harrington brings freshness and originality to St. George’s West. Although she’s been living in Australia for the last while, her genuine, straight-ahead Northern frankness makes an effective foil for the delightful quirkiness of her show.
Amidst the bevy of cabaret on offer this year, Harrington brings a self-effacing humour and originality to her epic story of failed love affairs and the search for melodrama that gives her performance warmth and humour. Self-absorption and unassuming comedic flair underpins the whole show and from the opening image, we see a girl who just wants her life to be something more than ordinary.
Her story has its peaks and valleys and not only do we get a glimpse into her random love life but also her family life, and this adds a roundness to her narrative that brings it full circle; it’s not all fun and games and chain-smoking Parisian fashion designers. Harrington keeps her characters fresh and real without going over the top with any amateur dramatics. She is consistent with the changes between characters and the lack of a hand-held mic leaves her free to use her whole body to punctuate both text and music.
Harrington has a strong, belting voice that resonates in the intimate venue with confidence and there are only a few spots where we get a bit of unevenness in vocal delivery. Her interpretation of the Celine Dion cannon of songs she uses in the show doesn’t always hit the mark but she makes up for this with verve and presence.
There is a fearlessness in her performance and commitment to her story that is thoroughly engaging and an earnest and honest delivery, coupled with a sweet, almost eager uninhibitedness, makes her performance utterly endearing. This is punctuated with sudden outbursts of expletives that only serve to make her story that more hilarious.
You get the feeling that Harrington has lived every moment of the story she tells and she throws herself around the stage with complete abandon. The energy she generates on stage, whether it’s dancing like a maniac or punching home her text, is unselfconscious, youthful, and ebullient and there were times I felt exhausted just watching her.
Harrington wisely keeps the stage clear of unnecessary set pieces or props, relying bravely on her own abilities as a storyteller and singer and her warmth of connection with the audience. It’s a choice that pays off and the additional combination of candidness and lack of guile are a welcome change from the posing or artificiality that sometimes passes itself off as edgy.
Whether it’s purse-snatching Parisians or a wild ride through her loves and losses, Harrington wins hands-down with a performance that juxtaposes diva-like shimmer with ingénue innocence, all topped off with a youthful vigour and strident voice that will do much to further this artists growing reputation.