By Clodagh Chapman, Third Year Geography
DramSoc-affiliated Peach&Taylor offer up Hot Flush, a witty and engaging take on contemporary womanhood; original writing by Phoebe Taylor and Nikki Peach.
Bristol students have a long history of bringing new writing to the Edinburgh Fringe and this year is no exception. This year, the DramSoc-affiliated Peach&Taylor are offering up Hot Flush, a piece of original writing by Phoebe Taylor and Nikki Peach, which promises “gossiping, vomiting, penis pasta and Katie Price… not necessarily in that order”.
Evidently, Peach&Taylor have ambition in spades, and this follows through into the production itself: cramming in not only the aforementioned gossiping, vomiting, penis pasta and Katie Price, but everything from single motherhood to online dating on top of that. Whilst at times perhaps overambitious, Hot Flush strikes a nice balance between humour and tackling serious issues. It doesn’t try to have a Big Profound Message but is nonetheless an intelligent, true-to-life and watchable piece of observational comedy, which isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty and delve into the less-than-laughable aspects of womanhood.
This is all helped by Hot Flush having an absolute dream of a cast. Kate Crisp gives a warm and nuanced performance as gossip-aficionado Pippa, perfectly balancing Charlotte Bartholomew’s louder, headier performance as Nina. Eden Peppercorn shone as Hannah, the dryly comedic sister-of-the-bride; whilst lacking in stage time, their deadpan delivery and excellent comic timing made their character both compelling and memorable. Meanwhile, Olivia Snell and Aarti Jalan gave incredibly strong and sincere performances as recently-divorced Saskia and single mother Jade respectively: allowing us to totally believe that they are women in their early thirties with life experience beyond their years. Shepherding the group through hangovers and penis pasta is Evie, played with verve and chutzpah by Lily Jones. All in all, the cast bring a real emotional honesty to what is quite a demanding piece of new writing.
As is understandable in a preview performance, what weighs down Hot Flush is over-exposition. The opening scene, whilst rife with dry humour and witty one-liners, does little other than relay the events of the night before. Likewise, whilst there are some moments of nigh on comedic genius (“she’s the human equivalent of a bluebottle, you know, a bit annoying but not enough to take decisive action”) many of Hot Flush’s jokes are overexplained and drawn out. In particular, the scene in which three of the characters scour through Saskia’s Tinder profile feels around twice as long as it needs to be, in part because nothing is allowed to exist in subtext. Hot Flush could also do with pinning down its narrative arc a little more tightly: though Peach&Taylor do well to manage their relatively large ensemble cast, at times Hot Flush feels as though it lacks direction. Likewise, though Hot Flush doesn’t claim to be a story about any sort of universal female experience (nor should it necessarily try to), there were a couple of moments which felt slightly tone-deaf: Pippa’s bisexuality was played for laughs (only being revealed in the final moments as the punchline of a joke), as was Nina mixing up ‘Leibnitz’ and ‘Lesbians’. Peach&Taylor can evidently write intelligently, and with a few redrafts, they will be onto a winner of a production.
With regards to design, Polly Wain’s minimalistic but effective set situates us comfortably in a ladies’ toilet, complete with saccharine-sweet pinks, slightly naff wicker decor and Charlie body mist. The on-stage toilet cubicle provides seemingly endless dramatic possibilities, most notably acting as an inconveniently non-soundproofed drunken confession booth in the final moments. The sound and lighting design are both minimal but work well in their contexts. Hot Flush excels as a dry comedy with complex inter-character relationships; to weigh it down with unnecessary SFX would be to take away from some of its charm.
Overall, Hot Flush is a witty and engaging take on contemporary womanhood. As is to be expected in a preview, its storytelling needs a bit of a polish - heavy moments could be integrated more cleanly, exposition could be trimmed, and the audience could be made to generally work a bit harder. But what Hot Flush does show is a lot of promise, and I for one am really excited about its next iteration.
(Featured Image Credit: Alfie Brunt)
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