The Veil (Le Foulard)[author-post-rating] (3/5 stars)

Silence please, the Artist is speaking. We, the audience – the unenlightened and uninitiated – are here to be instructed in the art of… Art.   “You’re welcome!”, purrs our hostess, the petite powerhouse in a black leotard who is unable to speak without embellishing her words with flourishes of interpretative dance. Like a female Lawrence Olivier crossed with Liza Minnelli, Hopkins perfectly caricatures the well-bred and decadent theatre artiste who has more pretensions than accolades, her gloriously plummy RP accent (she pronounces the ‘h’ in what, of course) explains that she is an Artist, this is Art and the cascade of shimmering material she lets billow oh so artfully around herself with all the comic pomp and passion of a matador is, in fact, a complex theatrical device. It is Le Foulard: the Veil. Perhaps we’re not as impressed as we ought to be. The Artist doesn’t mind, she has perfected a look of pitying disgust: “have you ever done anything with your lives?” she beams, all white teeth and ice-cold condescension.

This master class seems to be going so well – though there’s this strange manic energy, something almost too frantic in the flick of the wrist, the strain in her smile, a growing restlessness within that threatens her composure. Odd characters appear when she drapes the Veil in a particular fashion, at first willingly invoked as an example of the Artist’s philosophical investigation of ‘WOMAN’, but like wayward offspring, they soon wrestle out of her grip. One persona is a wide-eyed, frightened woman-child, looking for love in lonely cafes and even in the audience sat before her. She laughs when we laugh at her, like a scared animal imitating its predator in the hope of getting away unharmed. Then there’s the Hispanic attention-seeker who speaks in brutalist poetics, like the love-child of Lorca and Sarah Kane: “I love you like the oyster loves the piece of shit.” It’s in these schizoid jumps between characters that Hopkins truly fascinates, and then her alter ego sings a fragile a cappella ‘La Vie En Rose’, her spun-sugar voice taking on Piaf’s trademark trill; we can’t mock anymore. For a significant few seconds afterwards, there’s utter silence, as if everyone’s holding their breath, trying not to break whatever delicate, sweet thing is hovering in the air.

Still, whilst there’s no doubt that Hopkins is a bewitching and accomplished performer, Le Foulard is by no means perfect. The text often meanders, the pace slackens, the playfulness soon threatens to approach full-blown self-indulgence. There’s no momentum, only Hopkirk’s quirks holding our attention, and after a while, they just aren’t quite enough. It’s only the show’s strangely lovely, redemptive and utterly incommunicable conclusion (I really don’t want to ruin it for you) that makes me heartily recommend Le Foulard to those with a particular predilection for offbeat theatrical encounters where a certain sense of dissatisfaction is all part of the fun.

The Veil (Le Foulard) is playing at Pleasance Ten Dome as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 26 August. For more information and tickets, please see the Edinburgh Fringe Festival website.