Skip to content


Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2010
Lesbian Bathhouse
Published on Monday, 23 August 2010

3.5 stars

Assembly @ George Street (venue website)
Until 29 Aug, 10:40pm (11:40pm)
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

Lesbian Bathhouse describes itself, in the programme blurb, as "a one-act comic romp".  It is well-performed and deliberately provocative, true, but in fact I fear it takes itself rather too seriously.  If anything, this leaves it a little one-note.

In a baffling and slightly pompous introductory paragraph, writer Helen Eisenbach sets out the context and background of Lesbian Bathhouse, a legend "passed down from generation to generation."  Set in a New York theatre, a group of lesbian actors explore the bounds of female sexuality for the edification of off-stage Hollywood bigshot Rod Laselle (Harry Shearer, in a pre-recorded voiceover).

Nicola Stuart-Hill is wonderful in the lead role of Grace, able to turn on a dime from intense personal anguish to broad sexy-pantomime mugging.  The whole cast performs superbly, but worthy too of special praise are Alana Hood as Caroline, an ex-girlfriend of Grace, and Amelia Saberwal as ball-crunching producer Renee.  They both cut a striking figure on stage, straight out of Harvey Dent's hideout (or a Magnum commercial, if you're not a fan of Kilmer-era Batman): Hood is blond elegance to Saberwal's dark sultriness, like the good and bad consciences on Grace's shoulders... except neither of them are actually any good for her.

Although it is advertised as a comedy, Lesbian Bathhouse is more of a theatrical piece.  What laughs there are can be found in the intentionally-ridiculous porn-film scenarios the cast workshop out for Laselle, running through setups with repair men and pizza delivery boys in exaggerated fashion.  The difference, of course, is that all the participants are women; and Eisenbach claims that, in devising the play in the late 1990s, "the sight of women playing roles traditionally reserved for male actors felt astonishing and almost illegal."

What I think it does mean is that the joke of Lesbian Bathhouse is at the expense of its character's sexual orientation, rather than being an affirmative experience.  There's an obvious and perhaps-valid counterpoint that it is a satire on misogyny and male attitudes to sex and pornography.  But I do wonder if, when the audience you are reaching doesn't appreciate or doesn't want to hear that message, are you left only with lesbianism as titillation?

If that's what you're after, then you'll be pleased to learn there is an early and gratuitous wet T-shirt scene, and you will probably go home happy with that.  If you are interested in the message, it is there, somewhere: I'm just not sure, despite well-executed staging, a fantastic cast and powerful lead performances, that it really comes out.

<< Ross Sutherland - The Thr...   Scottish Dance Theatre: N... >>


These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

Edinburgh 2013

Coming to the Fringe this year?  We can help you make the most of your time.  Learn about Edinburgh's summer Festivals and plan your visit around the city's major events. 

Find out more >>