Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Ursula Invents Old Woman, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Ben Walters.
The science fiction novelist Ursula K Le Guin is at home to an unusual caller in this ambitious and stimulating two-hander inspired by Le Guin’s real-life suggestion that until recently “there actually were only men” – in the sense that women simply weren’t thought of as independent agents. If you follow that, all kinds of things threaten to unravel: gender, bodies, identity, sex, language, our relationship with time and space.
Collaborators Marcia Ferguson, Mason Rosenthal and MJ Kaufman explore this knotty terrain through science fiction: an alien being composed of something like light or rhythm comes to earth in human form and pays Le Guin a visit. The resulting interaction changes both of them. The alien helps the writer take her thinking to a new level, while Le Guin educates her visitor about culture and having a body. It’s heady stuff and, like any effort to express the inexpressible, it risks confusion through over-abstraction. Conversely, the alien’s habit of regurgitating ad slogans absorbed through the airways feels like a cliché. Otherwise, there’s a poetic potency to its “broken and borrowed speech”. By troubling language, the play gets under the skin of what it is to be human.
C Nova (Venue 145) until 15 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 12 August 2015
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