The sort of gymnastic movements with which Linda Marlowe closes out No Fear! would be impressive at any age, but at 81 years young she defies the image of an octogenarian sticking to things like brisk walking and stretching as part of their exercise regime. And so it was that her (somewhat) advancing years expressed themselves in other ways, most notably when Marlowe left the stage, ostensibly to retrieve her spectacles from her dressing room. I couldn’t tell if this was scripted or not, though some incidental background music started playing right on cue the second she dashed away. Arguably likelier to have been unplanned was a request for a prompt.
It’s a rapid pace of delivery, with some life events being recounted in such a way that I can only liken to sports commentary during crucial moments, such as the final moments of a lengthy race. The storytelling is often peppered with poems and occasionally with songs, stark reminders of how many things are still (more or less) the same in this day and age, and how other things have changed substantially. The burden of proof to obtain a divorce was much higher when she first did it than it is today, but there was an inventiveness and resourcefulness on Marlowe’s part that her then husband hadn’t latched on to. She also once resorted to some unusual activity in order to pay the bills – specifically, the school fees for her child.
Occasionally there were verbal slip-ups, which Marlowe quickly recovered from each time. I will leave it to others to determine if there’s a metaphor there in continuing to plough on despite obstacles and challenges in life. It could all have gone on for another hour at least – there are stories galore about her family and the distinctly unflattering portrayals of her by some of them. At the other end of the spectrum, a recollection of a time when she was in the same room as Marilyn Monroe brought a smile to my face. More could, perhaps, have been made of her time with The Sadista Sisters, a music band whose purpose was only clear to me when I looked them up after the show.
The underlying message is somewhat predictable, along the lines of “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”, in the words of the William Ernest Henley poem Invictus (not, I hasten to add, quoted by Marlowe). The road Marlowe has taken, however, is unique, and she has been able to do something she enjoys doing for so long that one doesn’t feel in any way that she should slow down, let alone stop. A brisk and delightful performance, poignant and witty in equal measure.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Hilarious, provocative and poignant, No Fear! follows a woman’s progress through decades of radical, political change as she breaks boundaries, defies expectations and continually conquers her fears.
On the eve of her hundredth birthday, the world’s oldest circus artist performs a mimed high wire act. Based entirely on events in her real-life Linda Marlowe re-enacts her many careers as daring divorcee, raunchy rock-chick, undercover operator, Amazonian adventurer, manic mother and professional free spirit. It is performed through music, mime, monologue and finally trapeze!
Director and Writer: Gavin Marshall
Writer: Josie Lawrence
Writer: David Benson
Trapeze Trainer Genevieve Monastesse
130 Hoxton Street
London, N1 6SH
Tue 12 Oct – Sat 16 Oct 2021