Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Edinburgh: You're Not Like the Other Girls Chrissy at the Pleasance Courtyard
Amid the clapping and cheering at the end of Caroline Horton’s one woman show there were a good number of barely suppressed sniffs and sobs - and when the house lights lifted it was possible to make out many people whose eyes were still glassy with tears or who were dabbing away at damp cheeks.
Horton gave a memorable performance at last year’s Fringe, in a play called Almost Ten in which she convincingly played a young girl; it was a compelling performance, her mannerisms, posture, and method of expression all incredibly well-judged.
Her new piece is even more accomplished. You’re Not Like the Other Girls Chrissy is inspired by the life of her grandmother, Christiane, an exuberant French woman who falls for an English teacher just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Her story begins at the Gare du Nord; the war is nearing its end and she can finally leave occupied France to be reunited with the man she hasn’t seen in five years. Using this as a dramatic springboard, Christiane then recounts the details of their first meeting, their hesitant flirtation, his proposal and the agony and uncertainty of their long separation.
Horton is not the most subtle of performers; her approach is broad and physical – and utterly captivating with it. She clatters into the room at the start, laden with suitcases, and launches into an unstoppable flow of French. Peering through a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles, with a fur hat perched on her head like a coiled white cat, she quickly develops a rapport with the audience, addressing them directly, laughing and making little jokes. Yet what begins as caricature gradually develops into a far more rounded portrayal. Christiane is an excitable, funny, determined woman, full of life. She’s also spiky and a little bit aggressive and demanding (she swaps her pearl engagement ring for diamond one because she is told pearls are unlucky). Horton totally immerses herself in the role and becomes so caught up in things that, at one point, she dislodges a light fitting from the ceiling while describing a game of tennis (with appropriate actions).
The suitcases which serve as her only props are inventively utilised, each one opening to reveal some scene-setting detail, a string of balloons, a Paris skyline, a bed of flowers. It’s not the most original of devices, but it so completely fits the material, it’s so charmingly executed, that it hardly matters.
This typifies the appeal of this deeply endearing piece. There is warmth and humour in every detail. It’s hard not to melt a little and most people in the audience had already surrendered themselves even before the moving, uplifting and beautifully executed conclusion.
Reviewed for musicOMH