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Review: Superstar (Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh)

Nicola Wren's solo show embraces looks at life with some high-achieving brothers and sisters

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Nicola Wren in Superstar
© Karla Gowlett

What do you do when you're the youngest of your much older, ridiculously high-achieving siblings? And how do you deal with that when one of those siblings happens to be Coldplay's Chris Martin? Writer and actor Nicola Wren has the scoop. Up until this point she's tried to downplay her connection with the musician, changing her name in an effort to break out in her own right. That ends with this new Edinburgh Fringe piece, in which she finally, gloriously, begins to own the truth.

And there's absolutely no denying that Wren deserves to be seen out of the shadow of her siblings, who are embodied here by some very game audience members. She is a caustically funny writer and a very enjoyable to watch actor and this piece is an excellent showcase for her talents.

It's a pity then that the play ultimately pulls its punches. She makes a lot of fun out of the time Chris and Gwyneth (Paltrow, obviously) appear at her school play (where she stars as Mole) and the many times her life gets characterised by the fact that she's ‘Chris Martin's little sister' (at one point a musician boyfriend dumps her because he doesn't want people to think he's going out with Wren to get to Chris). But instead of becoming a piece that tells us about sibling pressures and growing up the youngest, it, rather frustratingly, refuses to be much more than anecdotal. By the end, it's very much about her and Chris Martin, while the other siblings perch in the background.

That's definitely easy to forgive, however, when watching Wren is such fun. She takes us through all her career-defining performances – from being bunny number three in 1997 to the aforementioned (very method) Mole, to her starring performance in The Diary of Anne Frank. Along the way we catch the time at drama school she performed the physical embodiment of a Berocca, and when she got her first film role – as a prostitute with three lines – a year after she graduates from drama school.

Throwing on and off costumes in front of us, and dipping in and out of character – as she nervously waits for her brothers and sisters to turn up to watch her – Wren provides a whirlwind of entertainment in a very neat Fringe show.

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