There’s a warm and welcoming presence about Katie Arnstein anyway, although offering a sweet to audience members as we filed in helps too. Also, the Edinburgh Fringe used to be awash with little badges being given out after the show: this time, thus far, hers is the only one to even mention them. The final instalment of a trilogy called It’s A Girl, Sticky Door has a title that came about after Arnstein heard Baroness Shafik use the term in place of ‘glass ceiling’ as a more apt description of the challenges faced by women who wish to climb the corporate ladder. The glass ceiling, y’see, implies that if a person breaks it, it opens the floodgates for everyone to pass freely, which isn’t really how it works.
This being a one-woman show with plenty of laughs, there are inevitable comparisons (apparently) with her show and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, which Arnstein was keen to swiftly deal with at the start of the show. Perhaps it was her way of managing expectations, and/or finding a polite way of saying one cannot please all of the people all of the time. Either way, the main storyline isn’t so much about career progression as it is about sexual conquests with anything that moves – a gross exaggeration on my part, as there is a selection process of sorts, but it’s a departure for Arnstein from having relationships that eventually fizzle out to ‘shake, stir, thank you sir’ – not a phrase, I hasten to add, Arnstein actually uses.
An overview of her early life was, for her regular punters, thankfully brief, and for the uninitiated, like me, thankfully useful for context. I’ll have to take her word for it that Lichfield Trent Valley Station is “an artist’s impression of despair”, and the irony isn’t lost on anyone in the room that she once lived above a fried chicken shop, so the smell of poultry would seep through the walls and into her wardrobe, and in turn friends and acquaintances had doubts about her commitment to being a vegetarian.
To protect the anonymity of her miscellaneous one night stands, Arnstein refers to them by the month in which they occurred. The month by month (not quite blow by blow) recollections are kept interesting by Arnstein’s attention to detail, and diversions from the main story into other aspects of her life, in particular her conversations and catch-ups with best friend Lauren Higgs. Arnstein is not without regret, not least when she encounters a former classmate, who wasn’t exactly the most popular boy in school but turned out in adulthood to be happy and well-adjusted, which is more than could be said for Arnstein (albeit according to Arnstein herself), which makes me wonder whether she really is in a mess with a capital M or if there’s a degree of self-deprecation going on.
There’s a song or two to enjoy along the journey, in which she appears to come to terms with not everything in life being as it ought to be. Oh, and there’s a scene about a body wax that I won’t forget for a long time. It’s not groundbreaking stuff, but the observational wit tackles some pertinent subjects without causing disrespect or offence.
Review by Chris Omaweng
The 2014 plan was a simple one, I would “Casanova” myself around our nation’s capital looking for consenting heterosexual adult males. One no-frills lover-man for every month. I was the original calendar girl. Helen Mirren plays me in the film.
Writer/Performer Katie Arnstein
Creative Producer Beccy D’Souza
Director/Dramaturg Ellen Havard (she/her)
Sound Designer Andrew Hollingworth
Box Office Tickets are available from www.pleasance.co.uk
@katiearnstein, @beccydsouza, @ellenhavard
Katie Arnstein is back to push open that Sticky Door
Pleasance Dome (Ace Dome), Potterow, Edinburgh, EH8 9AL
Wednesday 3rd – Sunday 28th August 2022