Powerhouse performance cannot detract from weak script
Issue-based theatre seems to be ubiquitous at this year's Fringe, and in particular narratives woven around gender politics. This play starts convincingly enough. Gauche, gushy shop worker Leah (Nancy Sullivan) isn't terribly clever, but well-meaning and cheeky, the kind of 'girl' found twirling her hair and drinking Cherry Lambrini with her bessie mates in karaoke bars in any given city centre on a Saturday night.
Into this young woman's life smarms rich, attractive Ben, seducing her with his charm and money, then abusing her through his sexual demands. Sullivan's emotive performance is undeniably superb, as she endures horrific trauma after marrying the controlling Ben, but playwright Abi Zakarian's characterisation is baffling – Leah moves unsteadily from ridiculously gauche and submissive (strange, a 30-year-old modern woman being so naive, and expecting a Prince Charming) – to articulate and strong-willed. It doesn't quite ring true and feels inconsistent.
The metaphor of stains on fabric as on her character, and the threads of sexual violence being pulled apart, are effective. This is an important issue which needs to be raised in a dramatic context, but the end result is a queasy, heavy-handed play which rather paints working-class Leah as a victim rather than survivor, with very little agency in her life. A real pity, as the wonderful Nancy Sullivan is clearly a major talent – she deserves better than such clichéd, often predictable fare.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 28 Aug (not 17), 11.55am £9–£10 (£8–£9).