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Pauline at Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker 2)

The pace is rather uneven in this otherwise intriguing show, as it flits between the show itself and a show about a show. Sophie Bentinck, playing herself – as well as everyone else, as this is a single-performer show – is recording something or other for radio, and there’s some confusion between herself and the production team as to the running order of various audio files, which comprised snippets of previous recordings made by her mother Anna and her grandmother Pauline. The audience’s patience was evidently being tested: at one point, when Bentinck asked her off-stage producer if she should proceed, a man sat behind me in the audience said, “Yes!”, a passive-aggressive but still politer version of the Scottish heckle, “Get onn wi’ it!

Pauline - (c) Alex Brenner
Pauline – (c) Alex Brenner.

Not ‘getting on with it’ seems to run in the family – one of the more memorable audio files, at least for me, was one of Pauline getting increasingly frustrated at someone, possibly Anna, who kept wanting to explain what each and every knob and button on the recording equipment does, when all she wanted to do was push a button to start recording (which she evidently had done) and push another one (or possibly the same one) to stop when she had finished. It was the equivalent of having someone explain every feature of an iPhone without just letting the new phone’s owner explore for themselves.

Attention to detail, however, has some benefits, not least in the reading out of entries from Pauline’s diary, which felt intrusive to me, but there’s enough detail in it to gain a better understanding of what went on. But for a show called Pauline, the 1950s are rattled through very briskly, with the play spending more time in Bentinck’s world and her own diary entries from her teenage years, which left me wondering if it would be more accurate to call the show Pauline and I or even the grammatically inept Pauline and Me.

Bentinck does, to her credit, acknowledge the limitations and doubts in her own mind about bringing this story to the Edinburgh Fringe – is this, indeed, her story to tell? But if she doesn’t tell it, then who will? The struggles faced by Pauline eventually led to her dying well before her time, and while the show needs tightening, it’s an intriguing insight into the life and times of a previous generation and their coping mechanisms in the face of adversity and heartbreak.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

From Breakthrough Memoir award winner Sophie Bentinck comes Pauline, a new dark comedy about finding your nan’s suicide note. Written and performed by Bentinck, directed by Fred Wienand (Twelfth Night, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre), with sound design by Anna Short (Folk, Hampstead Theatre), lighting design by Ali Hunter (Orlando, Jermyn Street Theatre), and presented together with producer Emma Blackman (Bobby & Amy, Fringe First Award 2019), this powerful autobiographical piece explores learning to dance with the skeletons in your family closet.

Writer and Performer Sophie Bentinck
Director Fred Wienand
Consulting Producer Emma Blackman
Sound Designer Anna Short
Lighting Designer Ali Hunter
Stage Manager Megan McCarthy
Technical Stage Manager Tom Clutterbuck

Social @SophieBentinck (twitter), @SophieBentinck1 (instagram), #PaulinePlay

Wednesday 3 Aug – Monday 29 August 2022
Running time 60 minutes
Locations Bunker 2, Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh, EH8 9TJ

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