Home » London Theatre Reviews » Holly Spillar: HOLE at Edinburgh Fringe 2023 | Review

Holly Spillar: HOLE at Edinburgh Fringe 2023 | Review

A loop pedal is used extensively throughout the performance, a story through spoken word and song about vaginismus, the involuntary tensing or contracting of muscles around the vagina, such that the muscles squeeze or spasm whenever an (ahem) object is entering it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there haven’t been very many shows about it – this is the first one I’ve encountered. There isn’t a full-blown pants-down demonstration (and I am not, for the record, in any way suggesting there should be) – detailed descriptions are more than sufficient, with the comedy in part arising from Spillar’s experiences even trying to get help from the National Health Service. She calls 111, only to be told she should contact her doctor. The local practice says she should call 111. And so on.

Holly Spillar: HoleI don’t know much – by which I mean I don’t know anything – about the singer/songwriter Lorde, although Spillar references her with regards to the style of song delivery in this show. Various suggestions regarding treatment for vaginismus range from utterly absurd to plain naïve. But this isn’t a call to get rid of the NHS. Quite the opposite, as it goes: Spillar utilises her right to request a female doctor (advice from male doctors having been frankly useless, even if the audience gets good laughs out of what they said), giving the impression this was something she had to do several times, and later expresses gratitude for an unexpected prescription. I don’t know if she was ever tempted to ‘go private’ – I would assume not, given there’s no mention of it.

In some shows, the use of a microphone in a studio space is questionable. Here, it works well, and the show wouldn’t be the same unamplified – the echoes, rhythms and distortions created produce an engaging atmosphere. Most of the songs build up in a similar way, with the loop pedal used to record and playback sounds until one voice becomes several. It did get a tad repetitious, though it was all easy on the ears, Spillar harmonising with herself, and as someone who, for obvious anatomical reasons, wouldn’t know the first thing about vaginismus, it was never difficult to follow what was going on.

A promising Fringe debut that is informative as much as it is affirmative. The subject matter may be a curious one for a comedy hour, but it’s surprisingly delightful.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

After a diagnosis of vaginismus (a condition preventing penetrative sex) HOLE showcases the determination of one woman to achieve the basic, beige sex life of her dreams, with only a little red loop pedal for company.


Wednesday 2nd August to Monday 28th August

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