The cancer memoir is a burgeoning performance genre, and this is the second Brighton Fringe show to be told not by a sufferer or survivor, but by a loved one. There is a strong sense in the ether of the compulsion to bear witness: to the havoc it can wreak on the body, and to the bravery it can bring out. In Jo Merriman’s 50-minute show about living through her girlfriend’s cancer, there is also honest space given to the difficulty of staying strong. “I truly believe,” she says, “that cancer is a couple’s disease”.
Ginger is, as billed, a “small show about the Big C”. It doesn’t try to speak beyond its own direct experience, and could be taking place across a kitchen table. Its piece de resistance is the moment when Merriman makes ginger tea for her audience. Ginger is an anti-carcinogen, a remedy for chemo nausea, and the nickname of her redheaded lover, and tea is the hard-wired British response to a domestic crisis.
The ending is sudden, and the email exchange with a friend suspends the audience’s intimate connection. But Merriman is engaging company, and makes an often beautifully controlled script feel spontaneous. When she tells us she stroked her girlfriend’s balding head and felt “raked with love”, it is as though she is finding the words for the first time.
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