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Our Carnal Hearts review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘funny, candid show about envy’

Our Carnal Hearts by Rachel Mars. Photo: Claire Haigh Our Carnal Hearts by Rachel Mars. Photo: Claire Haigh

Structured a little like a church service, Rachel Mars’ Our Carnal Hearts explores the dark corners of our psyches: the places where envy and covetousness reside, the home of our petty and competitive selves.

Mars presides over her congregation – the audience is arranged in a square around her – in a show which is punctuated by a series of glorious choral songs, written and performed by Louise Mothersole, one half of Sh!t Theatre, along with Rebecca Atkinson-Lord, Rhiannon Armstrong, Rachel Weston, and Orla O’Flanagan They singers sit among the audience as their voices join in song.

Mothersole’s compositions are an absolute delight; a satirical hymn to the phenomenon of the social media humble-brag is particularly hilarious – full of lovely lines about people who are far, far too busy doing other cool things to interview Ben Affleck – and all of the songs are beautifully arranged and performed.

Mars invites us to share the small resentments we harbour about our friends’ successes: all those little niggles and itches we feel when good fortune befalls other people, when they buy a new house, or their Edinburgh show gets a five-star review.

She’s an engaging host, somehow capable of making a quasi-ritualistic beating with a rubber chicken into a moment of genuine catharsis. The tone of the writing is wry, the songs are wickedly funny and the inventive choral format has the effect of making the whole thing feel soothing and sharp-edged at the same time.

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Verdict
Rachel Mars’ frequently funny and candid show about the nature of envy
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