Edinburgh Reviews: Working on My Night Moves, The Patient Gloria & A Brief History of the Fragile Male Ego. cover photo

Edinburgh Reviews: Working on My Night Moves, The Patient Gloria & A Brief History of the Fragile Male Ego.

Edinburgh Reviews: Working on My Night Moves, The Patient Gloria & A Brief History of the Fragile Male Ego. cover photo
Lyn Gardner Edinburgh Festival avatar
Lyn Gardner Edinburgh Festival
8 August 2019 · Follow on Stagedoor

“Burn the whole fucking house down,” was the final cry of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia, but in Working on My Night Moves (Summerhall) Julia Croft takes a different approach.

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Mr Burns, a Post-Electric Play

Mr Burns, a Post-Electric Play

Emilia

Emilia

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Julia Croft dismantles the room and re-orders the universe. It is no less radical, but she is lit by a different fire, the desire not just to raze but to make a feminist utopia. This is an hour in which she does all the heavy lifting, with some help from sound operator Anna Bennington. Women are, after all, very good at collaboration.

Julia Croft in Working on My Night Moves. Photo by Andi Crown.

Working on my Night Moves is a series of disruptions. Herded into a small space we are confronted by a black curtain through which we see pin-pricks of light like twinkling ancient stars. When the curtain is removed, we are in a theatre space but one which doesn’t look ready for a performance. Chairs are piled in one corner. A couple of ladders are still in the middle of the stage, Croft moves the lights around on the floor leaving little snail trails of light. Then she wraps herself in tin-foil and sets out like an astronaut into the unknown. By the end, the room will be a different place: familiar but also completely different. Chairs hang from the ceiling as if even gravity has been changed. Stars whirl giddily by.

The performance is almost wordless. But for the distant voices of female academics talking about time and some of the key moments that might have shifted our perceptions of how the world is and might be. This late-night show embraces the gallery as much as the theatre. That is all to the good.

It has a strange eerie quality, haunted by the static of radios and lost fragments of popular culture. There were moments when I was reminded of Anne Washburn’s post-electric play, Mr Burns. But the great joy of this is watching as Croft really works hard, putting in the physical labour necessary to turn the room—and the world—upside down. A radical show that finds the right form to shine new light.

If Working on my Night Moves challenges patriarchy and even our conceptions of time and space as it re-imagines the room, The Patient Gloria (Traverse) reminds us just how long the men have owned the room, colonising every space. Even women’s minds and female desire.

In 1965 a young American divorcee, Gloria Szymanski, agreed to be filmed while under-taking three sessions of psychoanalysis with leading male therapists with very different approaches. The films were supposed to be for training purposes only, but without Gloria’s consent were made available to the public.

The Patient Gloria by Gina Moxley

To some degree Gina Moxley’s mocking cabaret-style show rights that wrong by giving Gloria (Liv O’Donoghue) the voice and space to talk about her desires in a way denied her in the films. Because, not surprisingly, all three men seem rather too fond of their own voices, their own utter rightness. There is musical accompaniment, and Moxley herself who plays all three therapists has lots of bawdy fun swinging self-fashioned dicks around.

But despite the humour this often feels a little distanced and cold. It never quite connects. The most powerful moment comes when Moxley stops playing with penises and instead recounts growing up in an era “when women had pubic hair”, when a farmer wouldn’t let his wife travel beside him in the car and made her stand in the pig trailer, when Ireland was sexually ignorant and everyone’s mum was “tranked to the gills.” We’ve come a long way, baby, but is it far enough?

A Brief History of the Fragile Male Ego by Jordan & Skinnner

Sigmund Freud pops up in Jordan and Skinner’s A Brief History of the Fragile Male Ego (Pleasance Dome) in which Andrea (Melanie Jordan) is trying to give her lecture. Valerie Solanas’ famed SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) manifesto wanted to tear down the patriarchy, but Andrea is keener on supporting it. Her SMUT manifesto believes that feminism is putting men under too much strain. It’s time to call for aid from some of the world’s greatest great men: Julius Caesar and Jose Mourinho. It’s a very likeable show, but it’s comedy sketch-like format makes it a little too fragmentary and it’s too crowd-pleasing to really make a direct hit to the balls.

Working on my Night Moves runs at Summerhall, Old Lab, Aug 8-11, 13-18, 20-25.

The Patient Gloria runs at The Traverse Theatre, Aug 8-11, 13-18, 20-25.

A Brief History of the Fragile Male Ego runs at The Pleasance Dome, Aug 8-13, 15-20, 22-26.

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