Seen in screen version, 2021 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
3 stars – an all-round monologue (waiting for the fourth star)
What if the president of the United States was a stripper?
This is how Mae is: provocative, straightforward, and energetic. Her monologue is a collage of stories and gags from her childhood and adolescence. A non-stopping freight-train that introduces the character from under many a light. At eighteen, she’s old enough to earn her own college money and to have the intimate satisfaction that she’s doing it in a cleverer way than most people do. At least, until the situation is under her control.
Who is the child who used the word ‘ambiguous’ every second sentence, without knowing its meaning? Who is the girl who can’t win a woman’s heart in spite of her charisma, but doesn’t really care about ‘using herself for personal gain?’
Between stand-up comedy and a coming-of-age story, this beautifully written play gives life to a multi-facetted Mae, her thread of thoughts being transparent and logical. Reasoning with her, it makes sense to optimize time and money to pay for college. And to this effect, it makes sense to send a couple of text messages to and older man, if you body is not actually involved. Or to go shopping with him – except that it’s a sexy shop.
Even when the ‘except’, and ‘even though’ come into play, they don’t ring loud enough to stop her in time. The road to a sugar baby is way too slippery. And despite it all making sense, the price for getting hurt and having her pride wounded unbalances the calculation.
Mae is the character brought on the digital stage of this mixed 2021 Fringe edition by Mabel Thomas. Aged 22, she has written the monologue she performs solo in a very bright bedroom setting. Her strong text uses several strategies to drag the spectator all along the story. It might be more tightly sewn together and more centred, but it is a very rich piece of theatrical writing.
Mabel Thomas’s ironic smile and her great storytelling are involving, and emotions raise naturally in her acting. Despite being filmed, the play has clearly been thought for the stage and hasn’t been adapted to the screen. A completely understandable move, which on the other hand doesn’t allow the performer’s intense acting to be given the value it deserves. This decision, along with some imperfections in the montage, speaks of Mabel Thomas’s will to be back on stage, without surrendering to remote art. I can’t wait to see her live and give her the very likely well-deserved fourth star.
Dates: 6-30 August 2021