Harpy review at Underbelly, Edinburgh – ‘Su Pollard makes fringe debut in touching drama’
Birdie lives on her own, surrounded by the detritus of her life. She is a hoarder, clinging desperately to the objects that make up her past, and annoying the neighbours with her outspoken manner.
Su Pollard is probably best known as the hapless Peggy from the BBC’s 1980s holiday camp-set sitcom Hi-de-Hi!. Yet despite the lack of her trademark novelty headgear and belting vocals, she is instantly recognisable as Birdie. This becomes both a help and a hindrance.
Philip Meeks’ Harpy demands a discerning comic timing and Pollard excels at this, whether delivering a punchline or singing cheesy pop songs into a hairbrush.
But for all the comedy, Meeks’ moving play is laced with cruelty and deceit. Birdie was forced into this mausoleum of a family home as a teenager and her life has been one of fear and regret ever since. In repose, Pollard’s delicate features are etched with an almost indiscernible melancholy that hints at Birdie’s loss. These are the sweetest moments of the show.
The difficulties arise when the actor switches characters briefly to play other people, as this jars the rhythm of the drama. Hannah Chissick’s direction perhaps could have addressed this, but otherwise Pollard seems perfectly at ease in her dramatic Edinburgh Fringe debut.