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PUSH – a digital show for Edinburgh Fringe 2021 | Review

I am reminded of a sign on the double doors at the entrance to a maternity ward that read, “Push! Push! Push!” While some people have resolutely made up their minds to have children, or indeed not to, for others, like this 37-year-old lady (Tamsin Hurtado Clarke), she thinks she knows what she wants, but when faced with taking a pregnancy test, she finds herself re-evaluating her options. As she finds herself taking a test, this provides her with an opportunity to consider what could happen.

Push by Popelei, courtesy of The Other Richard
Push by Popelei, courtesy of The Other Richard

The result is a broad cacophony of thoughts and emotions, ranging from beautiful to abhorrent, but always heartfelt and plausible. At face value, she contradicts herself, but on deeper reflection, not everything she says is mutually exclusive – it is entirely possible, for instance, to dislike the various aspects of looking after a baby, whilst at the same time enjoying every minute. The performance includes moments of rapid speech, and others of total silence, as if to mimic a baby’s day, where there are times when the baby wants to be Very Active Indeed, and others when the baby just wants to sleep.

There’s also a bit of a shock factor, which was somewhat dulled, perhaps purely by watching the online version of this production from the comfort of one’s front room as opposed to seeing the in-person version in the relatively more intense surroundings of a performance space. Clarke puts in an energetic performance, with the dance breaks a sight to behold. The production ultimately offers little (if anything) new with regards to the dilemma faced by anyone who hasn’t quite made up their minds on whether to raise a family. The running time of forty minutes is sufficient for the subject matter – any longer and it would start to feel as though it is taking too long to address a solitary question.

The production values are high quality, and there’s even the online equivalent of breaching the fourth wall. Occasionally, it felt as though Clarke’s character was overthinking miscellaneous future possibilities, working herself up to a frenzied state about something that might not even happen. It’s as if she ought to have taken a moment to pray to a higher power to grant her the serenity to accept the things she cannot change (and, indeed, courage to change the things she can, and wisdom to know the difference).

There are no magic solutions or profound insights, but rather an appreciation of the ordinary. An enjoyable and engaging experience, the stream of consciousness narrative will be completely recognisable for some and utterly peculiar for others. Worth seeing.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

A hell of a lot can happen in the time you await the results of a pregnancy test. PUSH is the story of a woman staring down the barrel of motherhood, torn between her own ambivalence and an uncontrollable urge to push. Award-winning Popelei have burst out of isolation and onto our screens with their darkly comic theatre production, reimagined for film after its preview at VAULT Festival 2020. Fusing theatre, movement and dance the company have embraced this new medium, collaborating with cinematographer Jack Offord. Pleasance Festival Online from Friday 6th – Monday 30th August 2021.

Created by Popelei
Performer Tamsin Hurtado Clarke
Director Scarlett Plouviez
Producer Penelope Saward
Composer/Sound Designer Santiago Jara Astaburuaga
Cinematographer Jack Offord
Sound Recordist Graeme Willetts
Assistant Director Anja Kulessa
Gaffer Jack Lilley

Website www.popelei.com
Age Guidance 16+, strong language and nudity

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