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Collapsible review at Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh – ‘Breffni Holahan is mesmeric’

Breffni Holahan in Collapsible at Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

Essie is losing her grip. She’s lost her job and split with her girlfriend. She feels like one of those folding chairs.

Margaret Perry’s play about a woman coming apart transcends the limitations of the solo-show format. The writing is luminescent and often startling.

It’s the details that make it sing: the things Essie notices as she attends spirit-sapping job interview after job interview and endures passive-aggressive dinners with her well-meaning sister and her “punchable” boyfriend.

Thomas Martin, who also directed the magnificently unsettling Ross and Rachel in 2015, brings a similar sensibility to this production. He places Essie on a pedestal, designed by Alison Neighbour, so her feet don’t ever touch the ground. She looks like an exhibit. Every time she moves the pedestal crumbles a little.

Breffni Holahan is mesmeric as Essie. A little wide-eyed even in the beginning, her performance builds gradually in intensity. Her breathing quickens; her skin glistens. She pivots on her pedestal, struggling to maintain a facade of intactness and solidity as her world shrinks around her.

Perry writes with clarity and insight about mental unravelling but, like Holahan, she achieves a wonderful balancing act. In the last few minutes the play pulls out its trump card, a reminder that we’re not alone and that hope and help can come from the most unexpected places.

Ross and Rachel

 

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Verdict
Hypnotically performed play about one woman’s gradually unravelling
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