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Sadie Hasler: Lady Bones at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Julian Hall

‘A collection of imagined musings from some fine dead birds,’ reads the explanatory note to character comic Sadie Hasler's debut solo show. Given that some of these ‘fine birds’ include Iris Murdoch, Sylvia Plath, Katherine Hepburn and, er, Myra Hindley, you could be forgiven for thinking that an access course, never mind a crib sheet, might be in order.

Prior knowledge of these unusual and ambitious ciphers for Hasler's often raucous and bawdy comedy will certainly help, if you have no knowledge of such a highfaluting crew you may struggle to care. If, however, you have a passing (or pass note) appreciation of their finer points you'll be able to eventually relax and enjoy some of the clever wordplay on offer.

Having recently been good-naturedly accused of ‘indecisive bafflement’ by Stewart Lee in his new book, I can tell you that is exactly the feeling you will get from Hasler's show until just before halfway as her characters start coming out on their second rotation. Among the conceits on offer are that Hepburn was a slut, Hindley found solace in haikus and Plath was perhaps, well, a bit kooky and unhinged. The skewed character studies, of varying degrees, provide for ballsy and dexterous lines as well as some equally feisty and studied acting.

Lady Bones creaks, however, especially when it leans too heavily on the theme of sexual voracity and sometimes uses a sledgehammer to crack its comedy nut. Despite this her one-off, 'cockney slapper' take on Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragette's childs' toy metaphor for her sexual preference is an example of route one paying off. This approach is contrast with the quirky portrayal of Iris Murdoch's ponderous writing technique, Hasler showing that she can do subtle even if she relishes the extrovert.

What goes around comes around, though, and the premise sags somewhat when some characters are brought out too often and their lack of back story is exposed. The Marie Curie thread would be best left as a one off. Meanwhile, Fanny Craddock's (yes Fanny Craddock) battle against the ravages of bad behaviour become slightly tiresome to her and us.

However, by this stage, the doubt that lingered early in the first half has been dispelled by a confident performance and some winning quips. An ambitious show from an obvious talent.

Review date: 6 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Julian Hall

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