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Review of Tumours at Assembly Rooms Edinburgh Fringe

TumoursJay (Ashleigh Laurence) has thoughts of joining ‘The 27 Club’ – people who died at the age of 27. The more famous ‘members’ include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. But far from being yet another quarter-life crisis show at the Edinburgh Fringe, a lot of detail is supplied about Jay’s upbringing and young adult life that brought her to the final scene, which is comparable to the last few moments in Sir Terence Rattigan’s play The Deep Blue Sea. Jay, like Hester Collyer, has made sure she is alone before commencing to execute a plan to be taken by her own hand.

She lost her mother whilst still in her formative years, thanks to cancer. Her father breaks the news to her by saying that her mother is with God, which only sets off a tantrum against the Almighty. Her grandmother (whether maternal or paternal is not, to the best of my recollection, disclosed), who lives in the family home, is too much of a traditionalist, such that they cannot relate, and without a motherly figure to turn to for advice, she finds a confidante instead in a school classmate. This makes for interesting consequences – I won’t say anything more about that here.

Because (to paraphrase) cancer runs in Jay’s family, she undergoes a number of medical tests to check for cervical cancer, including colposcopies and smear tests – a subsequent telephone conversation with her father leads him to tell her to get a grip. In one sense, I can see where he’s coming from – if something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, and bridges should be crossed when people get to them. On the other hand, there’s equally nothing wrong with using advances in medical science to rule out potential bad news.

The play captures the psychological as well as the physical impact of having doctors stick objects down below – let’s just say it’s awkward and uncomfortable in more ways than one. Some witty observations on life and on coming of age make for an interesting narrative – it may not be ground-breaking stuff, but it is at least accessible. Subtle reminders in this production that cancers don’t only affect older people permeate the production. It may be awkward viewing at times but it is also disarmingly honest.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Jay is 27. For one more day. And she reckons she’s about to die. It’s not all that rational, but whoever let that get in the way of a premature death fantasy?
After a short sold-out run as part of Maiden Speech Festival 2018 at Tristan Bates, London, and previews as part of Catalyst Festival, Tumours comes to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019.
Written and performed by Ashleigh Laurence (Soho Writers’ Lab 2018/19), Tumours is a northern, dark comedy exploring themes of femininity, the infamous 27 Club, and the importance of decent role models in a young person’s life (and what happens without them).

LISTING INFORMATION
Assembly Rooms, Front Room, George Street, EH2 2LR
https://www.edfringe.com/

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