Sara Schaefer: Little White Box
- Brian Donaldson
- 13 August 2017
A compelling and smart Fringe debut which picks at the scab of modern America
Taking to her stage with possibly the most low-key entrance in showbusiness history, Sara Schaefer feels duty-bound to (quietly) apologise to each and every one of us for the current resident of the White House. But there's a twist to that apology which we would have seen coming a mile off were it not for Schaefer's subtle beginning.
There was nothing especially subtle about her religious upbringing in Virginia, and here she references the mad rituals (mainly singing weird chants rather than anything too bloodthirsty) from church camp which have left deep psychological scars. The mantra which gives the show its title is buried so far into her psyche that its sudden reappearance knocks her for six.
When Schaefer discusses the night terrors which bolt her awake and in desperate fear for her safety, it's tempting to view them as a metaphor for the America she is so worried about. Her Trump material acts as a jumping-off point to try and unpick the unholy alliances which make up the Christian far right. How can it be that the liberal values she took away from Bible class can be interpreted so differently by conservatives? Admittedly, it's a curiously naïve sentiment to espouse given that history is packed with texts, speeches and positions being read in diverse ways (everyone across the political spectrum has plucked out the bits that suit their agenda in everything from Rabbie Burns to Animal Farm).
While lambasting Christian fundamentalists and the conspiracy theorists that are more or less controlling the US now, she also has little truck with the new-agey spiritualists who turned her mother's funeral into a living nightmare. This a compelling, smart and tack-sharp hour which Sara Schaefer delivers with a panache that takes us nervously by the hand down into the murky rabbit hole of modern America.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug (not 14), 7pm, £9.50–£12.50 (£8.50–£11.50).