Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: To She or Not to She, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Billy Barrett.
“Frailty, thy name is woman!” Hamlet’s words ring in Emma Bentley’s ears in this amusingly self-aware and ultimately rabble-rousing piece about her career as an actor, and the dearth of meaty theatre roles for women.
We join Bentley at age 14, desperate to play Shakespeare’s Dane in the school production but reluctantly lumbered with Ophelia. Bentley affectionately sends up her stagey younger self – a portrayal she assures us is only slightly heightened for comic effect.
Like the Bard himself, she relocates from Stratford-upon-Avon to London to seek her thespian fortune, navigating nervous auditions and last-minute line-learning, as well as a whole host of pressures as a young woman trying to break into the industry.
Bentley’s magnetic presence, knowingly comic takes on drama school life and passionate political outlook make for a warm and sparklingly funny performance. Her call for a more equal playing stage for women will leave you wanting to cheer inside – or indeed, out loud – by the final curtain. The sudden tonal shift towards sincerity isn’t wholly convincing, but this is an impressive debut for a promising writer and actor that will surely set her up for some challenging future roles – whether performing Shakespeare’s lines or her own.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 13 August 2015
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