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Edinburgh Fringe 2023


Melancholics Anonymous (Jen)

Genre: Solo Performance

Venue: Augustine's The Vault


Low Down

A 45 minute solo comedic theatre show that takes us from Cave women to the End Times with a clear message about (un)sustanability. “Jen’s Evolution is Nigh: One woman. One TikTok challenge. Seen through the millennia. Popularised by TikTok, “get ready with me” morning videos showcase people’s daily morning rituals through a quick-cut social media lens. But how would these routines differ for a medieval peasant, a Fifties housewife, or a CEO of the future? This commentary on the hilarity of the human race shows the evolution of one woman’s morning routine as seen throughout history – from the Stone Age to the apocalypse.”


J.E.N is an example of a fringe show that needs to be at the Fringe. It’s a fringe show for a number of reasons. Its length gets the job done perfectly well as it is a virtue that it packs a lot of essential information, satire and occasionally messaging without too much flannel. Our central performer offers short vignettes on a fast-paced historical journey, with selective chapters that reveal “moments’, perhaps even world-defining critical incidents that form the ingredients of the later earth meltdown, a point of singularity, estimated as around 2050. Not a bad guess I would say given the over-fullness of Edinburgh’s bins all over the city in August.

It’s a well penned narrative, directly delivered, Jen is a skilled performer and the women (archetypal woman) she portrays from cave times, through mediaeval times, taking in the 1700s, 1800s, 1900s and into our own post-millennial times, are delivered well with a blend of competent physicality, confident, fluid, comedy voice work and occasionally too-hurried vocal performance. Fast pacing is fine but becomes exemplary when the courage to hold stillness and silence for longer than a second is invested in. Then we, the audience, witness, enjoyer and learner, get time to digest, recover and relish. Its underlying theme of sustainability is well modulated, and only (and rightly) polemically offered in the last chapter. No spoilers from your reviewer here. 

Cleverness in the script abounds and the idea that “self-care” was born in the 1700s is intriguing and probably correct. Was the birth of  “self-care” one of the killer blows to ‘community’ and the idea that we need to look after each other (and include Gaia in that?).

The audience enjoyed J.E.N and the jovial, edutainment style of the show up until our own time lured us into a false sense of security. You might have to look to find the clues of how human development sowed the seeds of our current climate crisis. The birth of consumerism in the 60s centering on the USA-Western “ideal housewife” in the post-war optimism of tech gadgets and “stuff” for the house was more obviously presented. Other clues are more subtly woven into a script that contains humour that is a bit hit and miss. Hone that script, look at the balance between polemic and audience self-discovery and the piece will lift higher. It is already properly “up there” in its worthwhile and urgent intentions. The ending for us all is not good … or, ultimately, is it? This is very good work at the Fringe that I sincerely hope is regularly recycled in the form of a tour to a venue near you before we all sink under the sea or die of heat and thirst. When I get home from the Fringe I am going to feed my cat but you’ll have to see this timely show to find out why.