Happy Birthday Without You

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12/08/15

Roundabout@Summerhall, Edinburgh

Meet Violet Fox, “award-winning-live-and-visual-spoken-word-vegan-solo-artist-and-occasional-collaborator,” with her autobiographical tale of unhappy birthdays and emotional trauma (“Yes, it’s all about meeee!”).

This is a satirical piece, expertly skewering the self-obsessed posing of a certain type of wannabe, and, if this truly original slice of comic nonsense is difficult to categorise, it’s certainly a pleasure to witness it unfold.

Sonia Jalaly, as Violet, is a gifted comedian, with a penchant for wild emoting and exaggerated gesture. This is clowning at its most engaging, and there’s some decent mimicry and singing here as well, with pastiches of Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews and Shirley Bassey, cleverly woven into the narrative. There are beautifully clumsy references to Plath and Woolf as well, underlining both Violet’s pretentiousness and her immaturity. There’s a lot going on within this script.

The play works well in the round, and Jalaly uses the space effectively, laying out her boxes (‘This is my emotional baggage”) and props to create a real sense of her myopic, chaotic world. The mother character is evoked by a scrunched up facial expression and the use of two cigarettes as props, and the climactic moment when we, the audience, become involved, is deflated instantly by Violet’s joyful declaration: “Oooh, immersive!” We are reminded, all the time, that Violet has one eye on the way her performance makes her look, however personal the story that she is telling us.

If there’s any criticism here, it’s that it’s all perhaps a bit one-note. It might be more compelling if our empathy were allowed to develop further on occasion – before the balloons are popped.

This is a funny and entertaining performance, and deserves to be seen by a bigger crowd than is here tonight. Make the trip; you won’t be disappointed.

4 stars

Susan Singfield

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