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Pickle Jar review at Underbelly, Edinburgh – ‘a winning performance’

Maddie Rice in Pickle Jar at Underbelly, Edinburgh

Maddie Rice had the unenviable job of taking over from Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the touring production of Fleabag, but she slid into that role with an ease that can only be achieved by a performer of real skill.

Here, in a piece she wrote herself, Rice plays an endearing young teacher who is keen to appeal to her students. In fact she may identify with the girls she is teaching a little too much.

As she details her boozy nights out in Guildford clubs with her Irish flatmate and her increasingly desperate interactions with a boyfriend who misuses her, she hints at some deeper trauma.

The play is gently amusing to begin with, witty if fairly familiar in tone – full of jokes about Instagram and dating misadventures – only gradually revealing itself to be about a culture where a drunk woman can still be considered complicit in her own assault, the self-destructive repercussions of rape and the messy intersection between responsibility, guilt and shame that so often follows.

Rice’s performance of her own material, under Katie Pesskin’s taut direction, is admirably controlled. She gives voice to the different characters, handles the shifts in time and tone well, and conveys her protagonist’s unravelling while still maintaining a lightness of touch. The writing is often smart and funny too, if sometimes a bit blunt in its handling of the issues. Nonetheless this is promising stuff, skilfully delivered.

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Maddie Rice's winningly performed solo show about the complexity of rape culture