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Quarter Life Crisis review at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh – ‘a warm presence on stage’

Yolanda Mercy Yolanda Mercy
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When do you become an adult? For Alicia Adewale, her soon-to-expire 16-25 railcard is a sign that she should get round to becoming one soon.

Written and performed by Yolanda Mercy, this simple storytelling show pulses along to the rhythms of spoken word and club bangers. It tells the story of a young black woman living in London: Deptford, student loan, cousin’s wedding, in the club, morning lecture, notifications, zero hour contracts, living with mum, swiping right, swiping left. Ample worries, but little direction.

It’s a story that’s familiar to many young people, and the show feels semi-autobiographical. Mercy is a warm presence on stage, and any veneer of character that she wears is paper-thin – it’s her and the audience. Equally, it’s when she does assume the voices of other characters – a dull Tinder date or an annoying cousin – that she raises the biggest laughs.

Sometimes the show feels a little lacking in substance, but is at its best when Mercy explores Alicia’s ancestry and the weight of black history. Her feeling of purposelessness is compounded by a sense of responsibility: to seize the opportunities made available to her by her ancestors’ struggles and sacrifices, to steer the course of her own life.

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A vibrant storytelling show about life as a young black Londoner