Happy Birthday without You

Theatre, Fringe
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This parody of confessional monologues is just the tonic at this year's Fringe

The Fringe is always chokka with monologues – they’re cheap, basically – but seriously, is there something in the water this year? I feel like the last two weeks of my life have been a non-stop barrage of confessional solo shows, to the point I’m wary of talking to strangers lest they decide to share their innermost secrets with me for an hour.

I don't know if Sonia Jalaly’s ‘Happy Birthday without You’ is necessarily great art, but this parody of confessional poetry and live art monologues felt bloody cathartic – not to mention extremely amusing – after ten days at the Fringe.

Clad in black body stocking, Jalaly is Violet Rose, a hysterically overwrought performance artist here to inflict her pain on us. This she does by banging on myoptically for an hour about how much she hates her mum, larding the show with every trope in the book, from ‘quirky’ bits of audience involvement to clankingly naff urban rhymes and a narrative based on hysterically unsubtle flashbacks to some unmentionable trauma that took place in the playground when she was young.

I’m not sure the likes of Bryony Kimmings or Kate Tempest would feel totally flattered by a show that would seem to parody their oeuvres more than a little. But the real pleasure of ‘Happy Birthday…’ is that it laughs at the excesses of this sort of earnest work without being snide, more a fond homage basd on a fully formed and endearing figure. Jalaly’s performance is 100 percent committed, with Violet’s self-delusion and misfiring pretensions are of such epic dimensions that we can’t help but root for her. An antidote to monologue overload, but not a mean one.

By: Andrzej Lukowski

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