Reviews Edinburgh Fringe 2017 Published 14 August 2017

Edinburgh Fringe Review: The Portable Dorothy Parker at Gilded Balloon

Until 28 August 2017

Joy Martin reviews a beautifully constructed homage to Dorothy Parker.

Joy Martin
The Portable Dorothy Parker at Gilded Baloon at the Rose Theatre, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.

The Portable Dorothy Parker at Gilded Balloon at the Rose Theatre, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.

When I walk into the small room where the play is showing, the stage is set with period furniture from the 1940s: an armchair, a desk holding a neat pile of white paper, a small, black manual typewriter, a liquor glass half-filled with amber liquid, hardback books, and a black rotary-dial telephone. The venue room is lit by daylight from large windows, but the stage lighting is a warm, antique yellow. The merging of the two areas of light felt symbolic of the way this show felt like a portal, back into Dorothy Parker’s life in 1943, the year the play is set.

The Portable Dorothy Parker is an import from America, a solo show written by Annie Lux, directed by Lee Costello and performed by Margot Avery. As soon as Avery comes on stage, the quality of her performance made me feel like we were in a fine, velvet-upholstered theatre, instead of sitting in folding chairs in an upstairs function room. One of the interesting things about Dorothy Parker’s literary voice is that it contains so much of herself in it – her identity and personality are not elided or vanished in order to become an ambiguous authorial presence. This play is a beautifully constructed and performed theatrical homage to her, and her words.

One of the great pleasures of the show is that Margot Avery does vanish herself completely into Dorothy Parker, and the script is a thoughtful lace-work of Parker’s writing and famous bon mots, in the shape of an encounter between Parker and an (unseen) young female editor from her publishing house. In fact the construction materials of theatre, in general, are vanished out of sight in this production, and it just feels like an effortless creation, whole and correct, as it is. Parker muses upon her own work, while sorting through it, selecting pieces to be included in the publishing house’s upcoming The Portable Dorothy Parker. She recalls the famous literary figures who circled around her in New York and Paris’ early twentieth century, like the Fitzgeralds (‘the gilt wore off those Easter Lilies before Pentecost’) and Somerset Maugham (‘such an old lady’).

The deepest and most interesting moments in the show for me were the ones depicting Parker’s admiration for Ernest Hemingway and her longing to be valued by him as a writer in the face of his disdain for her – it is here that the sharp steel of her wit armour gives way to a still clear-eyed, but wistful vulnerability, as she recalls the poem by Hemingway said to be about her after one of her suicide attempts: ‘To a Tragic Poetess. Life will never become her so much as almost leaving it’.

Everything merges by the end of this entrancing hour into a sensitive and nuanced biographical portrait of Parker, which reflects, via her reflections, a wider pool of ideas about literature, the lives of writers, and the creative process.

The Portable Dorothy Parker is on until 28 August 2017 at Gilded Balloon at the Rose Theatre. Click here for more details. 

Advertisement


Joy Martin

Joy is a writer based in Cambridge. Originally from America, she has lived in the UK since 1998. In addition to writing for Exeunt, she is working on her first novel with the support of a grant from Arts Council England. She also writes the blog mirrorlamp.co.uk. Her favourite things in life are books, yoga, meditation, discos and every kind of artistic expression.

Edinburgh Fringe Review: The Portable Dorothy Parker at Gilded Balloon Show Info


Directed by Lee Costello

Written by Annie Lux

Cast includes Margot Avery

Advertisement


the
Exeunt
newsletter


Enter your email address below to get an occasional email with Exeunt updates and featured articles.


Advertisement