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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Lie Low

Ciara Elizabeth Smyth and Prime Cut Productions

Genre: Absurd Theatre, Dance, Dark Comedy, Theatre

Venue: Traverse 2


Low Down

A slick swirl of consent issues, insomnia and dancing to Benny Goodman


Faye (Charlotte McCurry) is suffering from post-traumatic stress, following an encounter with a man who had broken into her apartment. She suffers extreme sleep deprivation and her diet of dry Rice Krispies could hardly be called balanced. The audience witness her conversations with an unseen therapist. She seems to be increasingly isolated from the outside world, having no useful family, disconnected from her only sibling. Increasingly desperate to break out from her situation, she enlists the assistance of her brother, Naoise (Michael Patrick), to participate in an extreme version of exposure therapy, who she has not seen in the year since her attack. However, not only does Naoise evidently not have the skills to participate, he has issues of his own, having been accused of non-consensual sexual behaviour at his place of employment.

Faye tells Naoise that she has not slept in 20 days. This level of deprivation seems impossible and he wonders how she is functioning – the reliability of her observations come into question. She has imaginary dance scenes with a man in a duck mask – to what degree has insomnia undermined her grasp on reality ? She is adamant of her version of events from the night in question, but Naoise has a different account. Her brother’s revelation – his narrative being less than convincing – about alleged sexual misconduct is followed by him referring to an incident when they were children, in which, according to Naoise, Faye was sexually predatory. All of this causes her to begin to doubt him and his ulterior motive for the visit does little to cast him in a good light. Faye’s view of her sibling is eroding by the minute. Dramaturgically, the stakes are high – he is in danger of his life collapsing around him, losing his job, pregnant wife and home, while she is increasingly a woman on the edge, ever stepping away from society.

Oisín Kearney’s assured direction is subtle in its nuances (Naoise’s hand shaking under pressure being a lovely tell) and the pace is relentless. Paula O’Reilly similarly takes credit for the movement direction, the interchanges between McCurry and Patrick are slick, the matador scene being a particular highlight. McCurry’s version of Kelly Marie’s pop classic seems the embodiment of her anxiety (“my head is in a spin”). The relationship between McCurry and Patrick is layered, both actors performing at times with octane energy, McCurry’s societal rant being straight out of Trainspotting. The set of a rug, lamp and wardrobe being the focal centrepiece of Traverse 2’s three quarters round space seemed innocuous enough ; but the wardrobe takes on Narnia-like qualities – nothing is really what it seems here.

There are many themes to this fine piece of writing by Clara Elizabeth Smyth – consent, victim blaming, mental health, reliability of witness recall. If all this sounds a little downbeat, don’t be fooled – this is an electrically sharp, unusual, often blisteringly funny, breathless blitz of a show. And the final dance scene to Sing Sing Sing simply fills you with joy. Not to be missed.