Review: Fox (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh)

Katie Guicciardi comes to the Edinburgh Fringe

(© Rukaya Cesar)

Fox, written and performed solo by Katie Guicciardi and based on true events, begins with a new mother caring for her weeks-old baby. She canoodles, she smiles and waxes lyrical about the wonders of motherhood. But something seems awry – her partner is away, on business, and she's become fixated by the homeless man who has made his home right outside her flat window.

The piece, which begins with a glib, charmingly frank performance by Guicciardi, has an initial whiff of Talking Heads or Lady in the Van about it, but there is something a whole lot more heinously brutal and pertinent that emerges during the 50-minute runtime. Behind every serene smile and pleasantry is a woman desperately trying to cry for help, with no one there to listen. The plush toys and dolls house littering the stage, all quaintly pleasant, obscure our vision of this sleep-deprived and mentally unwell person, caring for a child without anyone there to help.

Guicciardi makes some solid points – highlighting how the hardest part of caring for a child isn't the first couple of weeks when everyone is popping around and oggling over the newborn, but after a month or so when interest has died down and a parent, almost always the mother, is left alone 24/7. There is a second strand to the story – about her responsibility as a new mother, in London, where she's part of a new wave of gentrification transforming the Hackney area, which adds even more texture to proceedings.

You get the impression that the piece may have fared better on radio, where the proximity of the character would make her thoughts even more pressing, but the show shocks in all the right ways – its themes and ideas are very much current and, more importantly, it never presumes to answer any of its hard-hitting questions. A brave, eye-opening show that always has more simmering under the surface than initially meets the eye.