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Sadie Hasler: Lady Bones
Published on Wednesday, 18 August 2010

3.5 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
10 - 30 Aug, 3:30pm (4:30pm)
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

Sadie Hasler is a talented actor and her show's premise - to bring to life famous women from history and learn the truth about their lives - is very promising.  I settled into the tiny Pleasance Cellar ready to really like this show…

but soon hit a snag. Although the show is about exhuming 'Lady Bones', not every woman it features is dead.  And that's a problem, because versatile as Hasler is, she's not an impressionist... and Germaine Greer really doesn't sound like a typical Australian.

This niggle continued to other women with distinctive voices I knew well; Fanny Craddock's, for example is far more than just posh. But in other places - when I wasn't worried about the way I knew the person really sounded - the show's tendency to take wild liberties became its strength.

For instance, there's the sparklingly clever vision of Sylvia Plath as an obnoxious, gum-chewing, valley girl writing endless letters to an unseen 'Ted' - who she explains is writing away himself, behind a constantly-locked door.  Chirpy Sylvia implores him to come out and go bowling.  The scenes become darker, loaded with our knowledge of how this story ends; and Sylvia ends up informing him of the birth of their son through the wall, perkily observing "I hope nothing damages him irreparably."

This show is not afraid to get its hands dirty as it digs up the bones. A gasp met the announcement that we were now about to visit Myra Hindley's Haiku Masterclass.  My favourite was an inspired vision of Emmeline Pankhurst, gleefully exposing what sounded at lot like confused third-wave feminism.  She's a cockney, see, and a slapper.  She sleeps around, but it's her choice.  Feminism!  So there.  Votes for Women!

Each sketch in this show was either a glorious, marvellous hit, or a disappointing miss.  There was little middle ground.  Several characters were revisited and I grew to know the music cues, groaning inwardly when I heard the notes that introduced yet another Iris Murdoch section - then excited to have more from an increasingly deranged Sylvia.

Hasler is a great performer and some of the ideas in Lady Bones were inspired.  This show has bags of promise; it needs a little more of a ruthless edit, and maybe the cutting of some of the less clever sequences.  Then, Lady Bones - though it likes to downplay its seriousness - could find that even in silliness, it has an awful lot of interesting things to say.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Germaine Greer was not Australian, rather than the intended remark "doesn't sound like a typical Australian".  This embarrassing error was introduced during sub-editing of the review, and we are very sorry for any offence caused by our mistake.

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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.

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