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Review: Collapsible (Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh)

The show runs at the Edinburgh Fringe before transferring to the Bush Theatre

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
© Holly Revell

Alison Neighbour's set for Collapsible may be one of the most striking for a solo show at the Fringe – a solitary platform is suspended in the air, with our performer, Breffni Holahan, perched on top of it. She's untethered, trapped, unable to step down.

Margaret Perry's new play follows Essie, a woman desperate to anchor herself while washing across tides of insecurity. She asks her family, her friends, her former lovers to describe her in one word – one each, a way to construct a tangible, real identity. Personality through polling. As the play unspools we start to discover why – why she's adrift, why she's jobless, what she's trying to recover from.

There are no ways around it – while a pretty solid text, this is a production that lives or dies on its central performance – something that is no problem at all for Holahan in what is a staggeringly deft turn. Considering most of her scenes are performed on a tiny platform, it's remarkable how physical it all feels – there's something utterly tragic about the way she forms a garishly plastic smile, emphasised by Alex Fernandes' lighting. Thankfully Holahan has already got the awards recognition she deserves.

As the show progresses and we see the extent of Essie's fear, it is the internet that acts as a curse and an escape – she watches clips of housewives drugged with LSD, she looks for new jobs. She has this vast network more than capable of sating her need to consume, while exacerbating a lingering sense of isolation.

There are some drastic shifts as the piece comes to a conclusion – bold moves that may not land with as much oomph as they could, but the touches of magic in the script linger: Perry describes "Catching your face in the mirror, like seeing an old school friend you'd meant to stay in touch with". The perfect insight into the mind of someone afraid to jump, unable to know if there's anything solid waiting to meet them.

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