Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: The Soaking of Vera Shrimp, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Susan Mansfield.
Fourteen-year-old Vera has an unusual gift. She can feel the emotions of other people in raindrops.
Nostalgia tastes of cheese, she says, fury leaves her hair stinking of smoke. She records them meticulously, including the ones she doesn’t yet understand.
Life isn’t easy for Vera. Her mother died after suffering an aneurysm (while watching a repeat of CSI), her dad’s not coping, and her schoolfriend Jacqueline has stopped speaking to her. Vera goes to the supermarket with her dad’s credit card and collects raindrops to classify at the bus shelter. But she has high hopes. She is sure her scientifically- minded father would love the raindrops project, if only she could get him to look at it.
Traverse 50 writer Alison Carr (Fat Alice) has created an endearing character, poised on the edge of the adult world, yet still observing it through the frank, unsentimental eyes of a child. Vera is charmingly brought to life by actor Tessa Parr and director Rosie Kellagher, desperate to please but without a shred of self-pity.
The story begins as a science project and is inventively told with the help of a science table, blackboard, overhead projector and a handful of carefully-chosen props.
A difficult conversation between Vera and her father is played out with the audience using flash cards. Water is ever-present, both as subject and metaphor – “missing someone”, according to Vera, feels like being completely dry inside, a thirst that can never be sated.
The play is beautifully paced throughout. It is only in the ending that the confidence falters. Grief, of course, has no real resolution, but just when a recovery begins to seem possible, Carr cranks up the tragedy to another level.
That said, The Soaking of Vera Shrimp is still a sensitive, unsentimental look at loss, and a father and daughter trying to reconnect.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 13 August 2015
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