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Festival Reviews: Traverse, Pleasance and Assembly

Ashling Findlay-Carroll reviews High Heels in Low Places, Teatro Delusio and Finding Joy.

High Heels in Low Places ****

Refreshingly honest, self-deprecating and over-confident in equal measure, Panti talks directly to the audience throughout, much like a compere of a traditional cabaret.

The piece stays loyal to the drag show conventions in may ways: risqué storytelling, jokes that throw political correctness out of the window and a show-stopping lip sync finale; it is also communicating a much needed message. Throughout the 70 or so minutes we spend in her company, Panti raises questions on gender, sexuality, the labels society dishes out and the oppression faced as a result of these, but she does so with humour and warmth, through moments of applause, of laughter and some where you could hear a pin drop.

Early on Panti states that drag queens are the ‘outsiders’ who can shout from the sidelines, but she is very much in the centre of this uplifting journey and as we listen to the final moments of ‘you’re gonna love me’. One thing’s for sure: we certainly did.

Teatro Delusio *****

A playful and poignant tale of three lonely backstage staff, hidden from the glamour of the theatre they support by the bare boards of the “wrong” side of the scenery.

Opening with beautiful puppetry that captivates the imagination with its lifelike movement and personality, this piece gets better and better as it develops into some simply exquisite physical work, which is equally humorous, moving and compelling. The three-strong cast create so many characters that it is hard to believe there are so few of them; mask, costume and wig changes happen within seconds, physically they change completely each time they enter and the overall effect is the illusion of an enormous cast of different shapes and sizes.

This is truly a masterclass in mask work and physical storytelling. A must see!

Finding Joy ****

Some beautifully gentle moments throughout, the quality of the characterisation and the detail in physicality create a heartwarming story.

The real delight is in the relationship between the eighty-three-year-old protagonist and her grandson come carer. Together they find their way through her developing dementia. They play and giggle; he allows her to get a little lost in the memories that have come to the forefront of her consciousness and in turn she softens him, and we see real changes in each character as they spend more time in the other’s company.

It should be noted that this is all done in masks. It is down to the skill of the performers that these characters come to life and are so believable that we see changes in expression that cannot possibly have taken place, and the characters develop before our eyes.

The end is poignant, and it is quite remarkable how touching the piece can be without uttering a single word; in this case we really don't miss or require them at all.

High Heels in Low Places is at the Traverse. Teatro Delusio is at the Pleasance Courtyard. Finding Joy is at Assembly Hall. Check websites or programmes for further details.

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