Isabel and Rachel @ Tuxedo Cat – Raj House – Room 2
7:15pm, Mon 10 Mar 2014
EDGE! had been solidly positioned on The Shortlist early, and interest only intensified when a Fringe Friend ranted that it was the only show she’d ever walked out of. That fact made me super-curious… what could possibly inspire such rage from an otherwise ebullient person?
Isabel Angus bounds onstage with all the unrestrained enthusiasm of an eleven-year-old girl… her character Stella is, as it turns out, a YouTube pop phenomenon, and her (or her mother’s) ambition for her burgeoning career knows no limits. And it’s a cringingly bright and brash opening to the show, with Stella’s exaggerated exuberance tempered only by the temper tantrums directed at her cousin Ashley (Rachel Davis), who mutely performs Stella’s stage and tech support whilst copping a verbal barrage.
Stella thanks the traditional owners of the land on which she performs with all the sensitivity and nous one would expect from an eleven-year-old, before demonstrating her pop-princess credentials (through her dance and song sizzle reel) and encyclopaedic pop knowledge. There’s a few awkward one-sided moments for the audience when Stella is talking to her mother/manager via Bluetooth headset, but for the first half of the show I was happily entertained; yes, the presentation felt garish, but that felt appropriate for the character. Plenty of fun, plenty of laughs.
Then, with her popularity on the downturn, Stella (or, rather, Stella’s mother/manager) decides to update her image… to get edgy. And that, of course, can only be achieved by making her image more adult… more raunchy. And so we have an eleven-year-old girl clumsily espousing the language of sex, with the images being flung at us being… well, repulsive. The laughter, for the most part, dries up; the few giggles that remain are nervous and uncertain… and there’s a distinct feeling that a line has been crossed.
It’s a challenging scene… an incredibly challenging scene.
And it totally pays off.
EDGE! turned out to be a wonderfully insightful look at the over-sexualisation of pop-culture, and it did that by taking us to some very dark places… we’re talking Taboo Territory. Isabel and Rachel let us stew in that darkness for awhile before popping out to an almost absurdly bright and innocent denouement: the “Clouds and Marshmallows” song at the end was distilled childhood exuberance. But it’s hard to forget the places we had to travel in order to get there…
Whilst Angus plays the over-enunciating Stella perfectly, Davis’ character, the dotingly apologetic Ashley, steals every scene she’s in – those wonderful eyes speak volumes about the admiration and fear she feels for her cousin. If I was to complain about anything, I’d say that there wasn’t a convincing emotional buildup prior to Stella flinging the earpiece connection to her mother/manager away; but that’s an incredibly minor niggle in what was an otherwise enthralling – and challenging – piece of theatre.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 10, 2014