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Fabric review at Underbelly, Edinburgh – ‘polished writing, superb performance’

Nancy Sullivan in Fabric Nancy Sullivan in Fabric. Photo: Pamela Raith

Wedding dresses are heavy. It’s not just the weight of the material; they are laden with hopes and promises, pressures and expectations. Leah’s new husband is, so her family keeps telling her, a “catch” and her wedding gives her the opportunity to be the princess she’s always dreamed of being. But she finds the role of wife tiring and confining.

Abi Zakarian’s Fabric looks at the narratives that women so often impose, and have imposed upon, their lives. Leah has all the things society says she’s supposed to want – a husband, a house, a honeymoon in the Maldives – but she’s beginning to question whether she really does want those things.

Fabric is also a play about choice and consent, and it builds to a drawn-out and upsetting scene in a nightclub when Leah gets drunk while on a rare night out with her friends. It’s almost unbearable, her suffering stretched out in front of us. Blunt and uncomfortable as this scene is, Zakarian’s play is a polished piece of writing. There’s a recurring motif about stained cloth, red wine on white silk, which becomes a bit heavy-handed after a while, but in general the writing is taut and Tom O’Brien’s production gripping. Nancy Sullivan is compelling as Leah. It’s a performance of subtle strength, of vulnerability, as she shifts from sweet-natured optimism to a place of breakdown, sobbing, cheeks streaked with mascara, hollowed out, upended, undone.

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Superb performance elevates an unflinching, if sometimes uncomfortable new play