Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Serena has invited you to her mindfulness workshop, where you can leave your baggage behind and be in the moment, even if that moment is not quite what you, or Serena, thought it would be. A solo show exploring keeping going in public whilst dealing with emotional abuse in private.
Serena is running a mindfulness workshop. Mostly because she hopes it will support her CV as she applies for her own job (again). However, there really is just too much happening in her personal life to actually breathe and be mindful.
Katie McLeod greets us confidently, shoehorning the audience into the tiny space beneath the Natural Food Kafé on Clerk St. She slips easily into the role of awkward over keen facilitator Serena who is just ever so slightly out of her depth. Serena is a somewhat two dimensional character, a stereotype, but given the limited time it works and provides a foil to the more troubled other self that we gradually meet as the show progresses.
Serena’s personal world is disintegrating as she struggles with her real world revealed through phone calls and texts as she struggles to manage the workshop. The audience are the workshop participants but it isn’t always clear when we are audience and when we are participants; we are given evaluation forms on arrival (but no pen) and are asked to breathe or close our eyes at some points but at others she addresses an audience member by a character name and it seems we are observers. It causes a little confusion given the intimate nature of the space. For some there seemed to be an expectation that free fringe = comedy and therefore joining in would be OK. McLeod managed the interruptions well but it would strengthen the show to work out the boundaries as part of the further development.
The script is sharp with plenty of humour alongside the emerging story of emotional abuse. There is a tendency to rely on repeating to the audience something she has been told on the phone and it would be good to see different ways to show rather than tell. She could trust her audience more, in that we don’t need a lot of information to follow the story.
McLeod’s performance is strong, she is in control of her material and is adept at delivering a line against physical movement or facial expression that completely belies it as Serena tries to keep it together in front of her colleagues.
There are touching and painful moments as she struggles to stay in control of the workshop whilst her personal life disintegrates through the medium of her phone. These could be further highlighted if McLeod pushed Serena’s reluctance to accept what is staring her in the face even further, creating a sharper conflict between the two selves.
It is an important and valuable topic and a dark comedy is a great way to share and explore it. This solo play makes a good start and I hope Katie McLeod will continue to refine and develop it.