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Festival Review: Gone Full Havisham ****

Scott Purvis reviews 'an enthralling, gross and explosive hour of theatre'.

Part-performance art, part-dramatic monologue, Irene Kelleher's Gone Full Havisham is an enthralling, gross and explosive hour of theatre. It invites you into the decaying bridal suite of Emily Halloran, a woman who was spectacularly jilted by her husband during a live social media broadcast. Six months later, she still sits in her bridal dress and curls, smashing her keyboard to a hoard of online vultures and telling the tale of her destruction.

From its opening moments, this is a striking, startling performance. The audience is invited into Halloran's claustrophobic, dark chamber and bears witness to the mangled form of the failed fiancée, laid out on her bridal bed. Frozen in time beneath a projection of the classic adaptation of Great Expectations, she looks like a victim, a stone corpse of Pompeii. And yet within that dirty, frail form is magma ready to vomit forth. Through expressive dialogue, Halloran handles the stories of her life like they're heavy stones, each still hot from the volcano.

This is a stunning exploration of all the nagging voices which tell women to "be" - be thin, be pretty and be a Disney Princess. Whether it's in the bridal shop or online ads, these shrill voices are brought into scrutiny in moving verse which flows smoothly ahead then right turns in an instant. The clever, schizophrenic poetry of the Kelleher's script skewers influencer culture on a sharpened Mac eyeliner and explores the devastation of narcissistic relationships in 2019, from the initially love-bombing to the inevitable discard. This is painted in redder lipstick through Cormac O'Connor's punchy use of multimedia, emphasising the strange paranoia of the character and the play's themes in a direct, visceral way.

Although it does have a few moments where repetition causes it to ruminate a little too much, Gone Full Havisham is what the Fringe is all about: violent, passionate storytelling which challenges convention. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, this is the bodily, grotesque and true art of a broken human soul.

Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose Aug 2-17, 20-25 at 1630.

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