Review: Hard Shoulder @ The Room Above ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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By Joseph Marshall, Deputy Editor 2021-2022

‘I think I want to **** the sea’ begins Hard Shoulder. Provocative, direct, and a little bizarre, this opening line sets the tone for the one-woman play, written and performed by Phoebe Averdieck.

Debuting at The Room Above, Hard Shoulder centres on the protagonist’s relationships with different men in her life, and how she goes about dealing with and understanding them. In doing so, Averdieck presents an engaging perspective on what it is to be in one’s early twenties.

The different sorts of love and affection – from romantic to the character’s love for her brother – and their respective complications are portrayed with real depth and detail. The character’s self-awareness and appreciation of the best and worst aspects of her relationships speaks to the strong writing in the play.

We learn as the story progresses that water – whether in the bath, or the sea, or the shower – is a way in which this character comes to understand herself and those around her. With this in mind, the opening line doesn’t seem like it’s there just for shock value, but has a real personal meaning for the character.

It’s an interesting and perhaps informative angle; the themes explored here might not always be the most original, but they are considered and certainly done justice.

The strongest elements of the play were those that explored her relationship with the character’s brother, who we are told has a disability, Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. While we might relate to other chapters in the character’s story, this aspect is more enlightening, while still adding to the overall exploration into the different sorts of love one can have.

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As a performer, Averdieck is convincing, telling the story in a way that makes us sympathise, laugh and cry with her. The stories that the character describes through the play line up well with the way the actress plays her for the most part.

At times, however, there are some inconsistencies in tone in the writing and performance. Its style of humour, for one, sometimes falls into a more quick-witted, cheeky Fleabag-esque style, rather than keeping in with a more authentic voice.

Averdieck plans on taking the play to the Fringe this summer, telling Epigram that the script and character are still undergoing development. A talented performer, the audience in Edinburgh can expect an engaging, raw account of early womanhood.

Featured Image: Phoebe Averdieck


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