Yukon Ho! (Tall Tales from the Great White North)
- Gareth K Vile
- 4 August 2019
Childhood hardships in a freezing land
Taking on elements of cabaret alongside a linguistic guide to the dialect of the area most famous for the gold rush, as well as the inevitable presence of death and danger, Jennifer Irons presents a charming solo show that disguises heavy themes beneath an informal, chatty structure.
The Yukon – which was settled by colonial whites following the lure of the abundant gold in the ground - remains a tough place. Growing up, Irons realised that both the environment and the culture were deadly. Her reflections on her childhood are rarely sentimental, but grapple with the hard facts of death, addiction and despair. Her bursts of dancing to deal with the deaths of her friends, her description of popular cocktail 'the sour-toe', the translation of her father's anecdotes, and the reiteration of the Yukon's 'do-or-die' philosophy all provide a snapshot of an area still indebted to its Wild West origins.
Throughout the show, Irons threatens to perform a can-can: her earliest dancing engagement had been at the casino, high-kicking and whooping for 'enthusiastic' audiences. As she gradually prepares herself for this grand finale, she reflects on how the dancing-girls were an important factor in the 'civilising' of the Yukon, highlighting their resilience, determination and the feminist subtext of the dance.
This idiosyncratic reading of history, reclaiming a space for women in a culture that exhibits plenty of toxic masculinity, reflects a broader intention. Having left the Yukon, Irons wants to reclaim her heritage. Through witty anecdotes, very dark humour and an ambivalent attitude to the antics of her family and friends, she attempts to reconcile her artistic practice with their roots in a land that breeds hardy and fatalistic individualists. Irons' charisma is balanced by this iron in the soul, and her playful wit covers a serious, intense heart.
Summerhall, until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), 5.30pm, £10 (£8).