Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker Two
Aug 9, 11-16, 18-29 (15:00)
The cathartic qualities of art have been known for millennia. The act of creation makes people feel better about themselves. The creation of art allows feelings & pent-up pains to be channel’d out of the psyche & into various mediums. So, to Laura Horton, a former publicist at the Fringe who has cross’d over to the dark side & has brought an actual play to Edinburgh. Its clearly doing well, having been nominated for the Popcorn Awards already, & on watching the play I got the general gist why. It’s pretty good!
Breathless is part of the Theatre Royal Plymouth gang who have sent half a dozen pieces to Edinburgh, of which Horton’s is but one. She is the current Plymouth laureate of words so she’s definitely earning her keep. Her subject is one close her to own heart & existence – hoarding -, & already people are coming up to her after the play just really happy to be able to identify with what Breathless stands for. The true essence of the play trickles out in subtle bite-sized, hint-tinted portions, until the excellently emotional ending makes every member of the room so happy to watch the sea-change in our now-beloved hoarder of ‘amazing things’ such as Stella Mcartney screen-printed trousers.
The drama is pulled off single-handedly – it’s a solo piece – by the multi-talented Madelaine Macmahon, who in her career sings & acts & tells jokes with equal electric alacrity. The way she plucks her potential love-match, Joe, from thin air & makes them a very tangible presence in the room is astonishing. The only problem for me was, despite her excellent performance, & it was riveting, I never quite believed she was a hoarder. I don’t really know any hoarders per se, & I don’t expect them to have a nervous twitch or anything, but it just didn’t feel like she was perfect for the role. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think perhaps an actress with genuine OCD concerns herself might have pulled off the part better. I never quite felt those ‘waves of hatred from unworn outfits’ she was describing. I might be barking up the wrong tree completely, but this is what my instincts were saying. Or perhaps the fact that hoarders walk silently & anonymously among us was actually a part of the overall effect & it was the subtlety of Macmahon’s performance that went right over my head!
I enjoyed the simplicity of the set, with every scene marked out by an effortless replacing of a single wooden chair. For a play about hoarding it was seriously unclutter’d. What I can say about Breathless is that it holds your attention for an entire hour, however hot a day it is. I was topless inside & should have swooned into a snooze, but all credit to Madaleine Macmahon, she kept me watching with intensity. It was also a fascinating insight into the mind of a hoarder, & to hear the litany of excuses to stop people coming into the house, or to go to the sales instead of a wedding, was educational to say the least. A great play on many levels & a great asset to the burgeoning thespianic career of Laura Horton.