Flora Anderson: Romantic | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Flora Anderson: Romantic

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

With democracies crumbling, the planet overheating and poverty, racism and homelessness on the rise, Flora Anderson faces an uphill battle to get audiences to find compassion for her cause. 

For she’s struggling to pursue the career she wants in the arts and – horror! – has to compromise her creative ambitions to take a dull, low-level corporate job so she can move out of the safety net of her parents’ house in the heart of upper-middle-class Islington. Don’t you know she directed several productions with the Manchester University drama soc? Does that count for nothing?

Moving from the endless possibilities that being a student offers to the real-world pragmatism that closes doors at almost every term is a shift many will identify with, especially at the Fringe. This show is about Anderson accepting that the artistic dream is just that - and possibly a mirage, too.

Romantic poets such as Byron and Keats were living an almost impossible life, even in the 18th century, which is where this story starts. Anderson also argues that Disney princess actually offer a more healthy message of how to be socially mobile than received wisdom would have you believe. If that seems counterintuitive, she also provides an alternative reading of Titanic that strips it of all its romance.

Anderson has set herself an ambitious target, drawing on high and low culture as well as personal experience – sometimes acknowledging her privilege – to paint a bigger picture of aspiration clashing with reality.

However, she hasn’t quite managed to pull this together to make that coherent, nor put quite enough laughs for a comedy show. A few bits are decidedly clunky; telling us of off-stage conspiracies that mirrored the on-stage plot of a student production of Julius Caesar might have been a through line at one point, but now sits redundantly around the main narrative.

Her delivery is dry and deadpan, too, bordering on the nervously uncertain. It doesn’t inspire much confidence, even when her ideas do. For she appears to be intelligent, investigative and eager to develop her own world view, not just take one off the peg. 

So Romantic fails in the best way, since falling short of a challenging creative goal is far more noble than playing things safe. It feels as if she will crack this style of show one day, and when she does, you’ll want to be there.

Review date: 17 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Bristo Square

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