Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Spine at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61). Reviewed by Sally Stott

“I ain’t no pillar of the community,” says Amy at one point – and she’s right, she isn’t. Or at least, she isn’t at first. A member of something that “might look like a girl gang” she has farcically grim sex with a man who gets her into boxing and burglary, before she’s kicked out of the family home. But unlike a lot of female characters at this year’s Fringe, she certainly isn’t a victim. “I haven’t cried since I was a baby,” she says, not so much covering up her feelings as making a statement of fact.

Clara Brennan’s sharp and sassy monologue, delivered with upbeat defiance by Rosie Wyatt, is a slap in the face for any left-wing do-gooders interested in characterising working-class women as needing their help. It’s through meeting an “old biddy”’, Mrs Glenda, who is declining physically and mentally, that Amy finds her purpose. A story that could have been horribly worthy, it has the humour and spike of Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole and develops into a funny and hopeful social commentary.

You see, Mrs Glenda has been hoarding the books the closing libraries have been throwing out, in the attic of a house she claims to have lived in for 138 years. With a shared sense of smutty humour, the two women help one another: Amy starts caring for Mrs Glenda and Mrs Glenda introduces Amy to George Eliot, Jane Eyre and that lesser-known classic ‘Grow Your Own Drugs’. Mrs Glenda wants Amy to “rise up”; Amy is more at home “muddling through”.

In a story in which we’re asked to consider what happened to the true socialist ideals of a generation who fought in the Second World War and gave us the NHS, we find out that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Until 24 August. Today 3:30pm, more info

Originally published in The Scotsman

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