Review: Unstitching (TheSpace @ Niddry Street)
Crafted chaos inspired by everyone’s favourite international song competition
For theatre kids, talking about Eurovision during the Fringe is like talking about Halloween during Christmas. Combining the two doesn’t feel allowed. And yet, Ruby Shrimpton has brought her eccentric solo show Unstitching to the festival. The character she plays is a Eurovision fanatic: she knows the songs, she knows the moves, she knows the trivia, and she just can’t wait to tell you.
But this is not to say this show will be explaining the competition in all its quirks, nor will it be a winking barrage of niche references for similar superfans. Instead, it is like watching the process of a nervous (fictional meta) theatre-maker trying to communicate her feelings to the audience by talking about the competition as much as possible. Poetry, anecdotes, fun facts, and impressively detailed choreography pile on top of each other until she fumbles, apologises to the audience (in character) for the show not making sense, and changes the subject only for the cycle to start again.
One could be mistaken for thinking that means we do not get to know her as a character; in fact, we learn a great deal through her efforts to avoid talking about herself. Eurovision is not just a passion for her, but a means by which she understands the world: as a lens, as a distraction, and as an event as openly nonsensical as the rest of the world feels. It’s an idea that Shrimpton spells out by the end of the performance, but while in any other show this would feel like overkill here it feels like precisely the point – even stating clearly what the show is trying to communicate will never do justice to how it is to feel out of place in the world. The show is overflowing with anxiety and excitement and Shrimpton rides that wave masterfully.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what Shrimpton is trying to say with Unstitching because the main character doesn’t quite know either. She communicates the desire to be understood in a way that feels complex and embodied without losing sight of the fun associated with Eurovision, and she does it all dressed as though she rolled around in a box full of wool and sparkly pipe cleaners. If you like Eurovision you will love Unstitching, not because it references Eurovision a lot, but because it takes what makes the competition so beloved and applies it to a solo show. Four stars.
Whispers from the Crowd: Really cool. It makes you think about how you think and see inside someone else’s mind.
Unstitching will play at TheSpace @ Niddry Street until August 22nd