Frank at Assembly George Sq

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Freak at Assembly George Square studios (Venue 17). Reviewed by Sally Stott

Frank at Assembly George Sq

Cold, desexualised sex and the way women are encouraged to enjoy doing things that they might otherwise be appalled by is the subject of Anna Jordan’s hard-hitting, stark and unforgiving play – but there is a bleak kind of humour among the horror.

Indeed, the place where comedy tips into something greaser, grimier and not at all funny is where it spends most of its time.

Earlier this year, Jordan won the Bruntwood writing prize (for her play Yen), and this is the kind of gritty, issue-led play that might also do well in such competitions, told through two interconnecting monologues. As Leah, a school girl about to lose her virginity, describes her desire to be seen as “normal” and Georgie, 30, descends into a world of sexual violence, wearing her increasingly extreme acts as a badge of honour, we are given a bleak perspective on women’s treatment by men in the modern world. The language is at times visceral and uncompromising; the performances raw and confrontational.

At separate stages in the same journey, one that sees both women manipulated into allowing themselves to be used as objects, we follow their demise – but despite it at times being an uncomfortable piece to watch, the characters are not without hope. When the connection between their two stories becomes clear, the focus shifts from sex to family and friendship. However, the constant pressure from men for women to look and behave as they want is always present in a way that is dispiriting and you might rightly question as being unrepresentative. Not every woman is going to be gang raped and not every man is a potential rapist, but at times that’s what it feels like here.

“Fancy something a bit lighter?” a woman handing out fliers after the show says. And, while Jordan is a talented writer with a commanding voice, the answer is: yes.

Freak is at Assembly George Square, more info here

Originally published in The Scotsman

Going to the Edinburgh Festival?

• Unsure what to see? Read all The Scotsman reviews
• What’s hot (or not): Browse the reviews by star rating
• Don’t miss a thing. Sign up to our daily email newsletter
• Join the conversation with #WOWFEST and follow it live