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Farewell to the Tooth Fairy
Published on Friday, 07 May 2010

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Lynn Ruth Miller was at first unprepossessing; at 5ft tall, her frail 77-year-old frame was not enhanced by top-to-toe turquoise. Contrary to initial impressions, though, I quickly felt as safe relaxing into her confident narration as I was curled up on my own grandmother’s knee.  She cared to tell her history, and I listened as though it was my own.

Narrating seamlessly and with ease her story of growing up in a Jewish immigrant family in America, she delivered neither shocks nor surprises.  I imagined she was describing snapshots carefully selected from an overflowing box in the attic, brushing off surface dust to reveal memories hidden behind what the picture foretold – gems only she could present.

The starring role was hers, but she painted pictures of her mother, grandmother and others who featured in her life with a warmth which demonstrated her powers of observation as well as a loving acceptance of all of them.  Far from creating stereotypes out of her Jewish family, she developed likely and likeable characters.

I particularly liked the first story ‘The Melting Pot’, in which I learned how her mother designed an American out of her, rejecting the long dresses and pants sagging to the floor of her own childhood in favour of a Shirley Temple costume. Equally I enjoyed the tale of Lynn Ruth’s month-long excursions to her grandmother’s house, when she learned from ‘gubby’ the songs and stories of her mother’s youth – and loved to dress up in the very clothes her mother had shunned years before.  I got a strong sense of the multitude of influences upon a first-generation American, and how stories cause these to be sustained.

I should say the stories were lighthearted and amusing, and made me smile. They weren’t memorable though, and even now I’m struggling to recall more than the gist.  But I don’t think this is a problem; Lynn Ruth was not making any political points or imparting any lasting wisdom.  I imagine she’d be more than satisfied if I pulled at her skirt and pleaded to hear ‘the one about the canary… and then tell me the one about the tooth fairy again’; sometimes it’s enough to keep fond memories filed by tags, if it means that on a rainy day they can be teased out again.

Go along to hear Lynn Ruth’s tales if you need a pick-me-up.  There’s nothing to confront or provoke – a welcome antidote, perhaps, to some more experimental Fringe performances.  However, therein also may lie Lynn Ruth’s problem; it’s wonderful to have so much choice this month, but selection of one show means rejection of another.  Heartwarming though the stories are, I’m not sure I can recommend this gentle show to the exclusion of others.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.