Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Sanitise at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61). Review by Joyce McMillan

What is clean and what is dirty? asks the Fringe programme entry for Sanitise, at the Underbelly; and for a sharp, witty and vivid one-hour analysis of our society’s neurotic relationship with the very idea of filth, you’re unlikely to do better than this new piece of wordless drama co-created by performer Melanie Jordan and young Edinburgh director Caitlin Skinner.

Our heroine arrives in the room wincing at the hideous grubbiness of the world outside her home, advances onto a stage entirely occupied by a shining white bathroom, and starts – almost ecstatically – to clean invisible spots of dirt from the gleaming porcelain, while stroking it with unconcealed passion.

As her fondest imaginings appear in animations that are projected on to the shower-curtain, though, we begin to realise that there are stormy depths beneath her prim exterior; notably a passion for an office colleague named John which causes her to keep a mouldy old sandwich of his as a souvenir, and a level of frustration, following the apparent failure of their relationship, that provokes her to send off via Amazon for a Madam Whiplash outfit, complete with scarlet basque, whip, and dizzyingly high-heeled red shoes.

Even that, though, fails to fill the gap in our heroine’s life; and after a flirtation with a hideous growth of mould beneath the bath, she descends into an orgy of self-disgust, reflected in ever more dramatic and starting projected images.

Her story remains unresolved, of course; but this elegant little show, which is performed by Jordan with unfailing grace, wit and skill, raises some key questions about how we can possibly fulfil our need for a bit of old-fashioned filth and spontaneity in a society where everything has to be sanitised and sealed off from the hazards of human touch – including, perhaps, even sex itself.

Until 24 August. Today 10pm, more info

Originally published in The Scotsman

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