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Review: Hunch (Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh Fringe)

Kate Kennedy's superhero has a rather surprising superpower, in this show at the Edinburgh Fringe

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
© The Other Richard

Spiderman has his spidey senses, Hunch has her gut instinct – and it never tingles, it rumbles. A superhero with a sixth sense of sorts, she's blessed with an intuition so strong it always picks the right path. If only she could summon the same certainty in her own personal life.

Kate Kennedy's comic superhero story prods at an array of social anxieties felt, particularly but not exclusively, by young women. Hunch's alterego Una is wracked by indecision, paralysed even over what to pick up for dinner. Change causes stomach cramps and chronic pain, and, at 27, still living with her parents, she's incapable of steering her life in any direction – at least until her sensitive gut makes its powers manifest.

Set in the city of Hum, a metropolis so endemically indecisive that it enlists a squad of superheroes to call its every shot, from what to buy at the butchers to whether to embark on that affair, Hunch takes a sideways glance at a world in stasis – personally, as well as politically. It's cutely done: the Avengers-style supergroup is led by nerdy Head and super-smooth Heart, with less than helpful input from, er, Genitals (lusty) and Maude (depressive). Fortunately, Hack's there to provide back-up by erasing any wrong turns along the way.

Kennedy plays them all, and more, with a likeable knack for caricature. Dressed in Hunch's red halterneck jumpsuit, she hops between cocksure chirpsers and stern sexual health nurses with a verve that will only tighten as the shows settles into its run. Even so, a convoluted plot teeming with tangents means the constant character turns can be confusing.

It's Hunch herself – or rather Una – who holds the key. "Unstoppable" as her heroic alterego, she still feels liable to "topple over if someone blows in my face" in her own life. Her split personality – professional self and personal life – suggests imposter syndrome and the need to adopt a fixed public persona. While her chef boyfriend Luke is laid-back, Una feels as if the fate of the whole world rests on her every decision. Call it superhero's guilt.

Against that, Hunch offers solace and realism. A testament to going with your gut – not only trusting yourself, but thinking corporeally in a way that feels acutely feminist – it also insists that some things, however tragic, simply can't be controlled, let alone erased.

For all that, however, Hunch still feels oddly inconsequential and Kennedy never entirely cuts from cute, comic allegory to real-world resonance in the way that, say, Alistair McDowall's Captain Amazing managed. Likeable and diverting, it's just lacking in guts.

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