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Reviews Edinburgh Fringe 2017 Published 25 August 2017

Edinburgh Fringe Review: Our Carnal Hearts at Summerhall

Until 26th August

New and unique and fascinating: Duška Radosavljević on Rachel Mars’s exploration of envy and desire.

Duska Radosavljevic
Our Carnal Hearts at Summerhall, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017. (photo: Claire Haigh)

Our Carnal Hearts at Summerhall, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017. (photo: Claire Haigh)

There is so much to admire in Rachel Mars’s show. Fans of her writing and wry comedy are treated to another exquisitely sharp satire on social media-induced envy. Those new to the work are provided with a rousing initiation ritual. Musically-inclined audiences get to encounter an altogether new take on the notions of recital, choir and pop. And there’s even something there for older siblings, coffee enthusiasts and seekers of inner peace.

Dramaturgically, it is a complex but clear construction consisting of several intersecting planes: there is Mars the parody preacher delivering a sermon on envy, there is Mars the delicate prose writer lurking in the shadows and Mars the comedy storyteller narratively holding the whole thing together with the question of: what if a fairy came to you in the middle of the night promising anything you want on condition your neighbour got twice as much of the same thing?

But this is not a mere solo show. Theatrically, Mars has collaborated with an all female ensemble to create a live choral soundscape for her piece. Sh!t Theatre’s Louise Mothersole has composed and created the musical arrangements that form this intricate, playful and sturdy container for Mars’s meditation, though the transitions between these different elements of the show’s content are often entirely seamless. As such, this show is definitely more than the sum of its parts. In terms of its crafting, Our Carnal Hearts is something quite new and unique and fascinating. (Enough to turn anyone’s rivals quite green with envy too.)

Even the choice of the venue on this occasion – the Dissection room at Summerhall – seems significant and is acknowledged as such. And then there are other perks too – like the chorus of Spandau Ballet’s Gold repurposed as a personal affirmation and turned into an earworm you will struggle to shake off for at least 24 hours.

Invited to welcome the ugly part of ourselves, we, the audience definitely get all our buttons pressed – we laugh, we think, we question, we sing, we admire, we envy, we make confessions, we congratulate our rivals on their success (and learn to mean it), we exorcise our own demons, and ultimately we emerge out of this show lighter and with a spring in our step. If it sounds like therapy, it’s even better than that. Go and see for yourselves.

Our Carnal Hearts is on at Summerhall until 26th August. Click here for more details.

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Duska Radosavljevic

Duska Radosavljevic is a dramaturg, teacher and scholar. She is the author of Theatre-Making: Interplay Between Text and Performance in the 21st Century (2013) and editor of The Contemporary Ensemble: Interviews with Theatre-Makers (2013). Duska has also contributed to The Stage Newspaper since 1998 as well as a number of academic and online publications in English and in Serbian.

Edinburgh Fringe Review: Our Carnal Hearts at Summerhall Show Info


Directed by Wendy Hubbard and Rachel Mars

Written by Rachel Mars

Cast includes Rachel Mars, Louise Mothersole, Rhiannon Armstrong, Rachel Weston, Rebecca Atkinson-Lord and Orla O'Flanagan

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