Home » London Theatre Reviews » Holly Sewell’s Dazzling at the Etcetera Theatre | Review

Holly Sewell’s Dazzling at the Etcetera Theatre | Review

The term ‘privileged’ has, in my humble opinion (for what it’s worth) become somewhat overused in contemporary society. But the temptation to apply it to Alix’s (Charlotte Scott-Haynes) situation is strong – this is someone who, one way or another, can afford to attend university in this day and age, and someone who can afford to resign from a summer job simply because they don’t like the nature of the job and they don’t like the people, or more specifically, the ‘deputy assistant company manager’ that she shares an office with. She’s not exactly juggling two day jobs whilst studying part-time in the evenings.

Holly Sewell's Dazzling
Holly Sewell’s Dazzling.

Still, one would have thought she would be able to devote more time to Fiona, with whom she is in a relationship. Fiona, consistently referred to as ‘they’ very naturally, without the need for a discourse on pronouns (hurrah!) is, without giving too much away, quite different to Alix, and while opposites attract, there’s also scope for discord, which if anything provides some (arguably much needed) dramatic tension.

Like all good single-performer shows, Scott-Haynes personifies a number of characters very well, giving distinctive voices to Fiona as well as her mother and her best friend, Jan (he/him, for the avoidance of doubt). There are some stereotypes here –  especially when it comes to Alix herself, the young student with a very untidy living space, complete with multiple empty alcohol cans and bottles and the ability to party the night away, and not necessarily have a specific reason for doing so.

A moment of screaming and swearing comes about very suddenly, and is out of character for the show’s narrator, who might well have opinions on those closest to her, as many people do, but she maintains a convincing and believable level of civility, this one moment aside. Alix’s breakdown simply happens, and (unless I missed it) isn’t referred to again – and if it was meant to be demonstrative of mental (ill) health, it’s glossed over somewhat, as are Alix’s struggles with alcohol misuse.

Anchored as it is in the world of a relationship and a close friendship, it is of some relief that this isn’t yet another show in which a major critical incident occurs part way through, irrevocably changing everyone’s lives for the worse. There’s a degree of perception when Alix starts talking about turning to art (other pastimes, of course, are available) and confiding in friends to help get her through a difficult time: she knows she may feel, at the time, like she may never recover from whatever it is she is going through, but she also knows she’ll get through it.

It is, therefore, a more complex story than the backdrop of young love might have one believe, and the use of poetry provides an eloquent contrast – a refreshing one for some, a jarring one for others – from the conversational tone of the show’s prose. However, I can’t help but feel it felt a little rushed, and maybe needs the ninety-minute no-interval treatment than the fifty minutes it’s given here.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

A year on from a depressive episode, Alix is full of the joys of life. But when they meet a beautiful stranger, dark inner conflicts resurface. Obsession, addiction and poetry are combined in this modern, queer tale of a descent into madness.

Monday, 11 December 2023


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