Edinburgh Review: Spine, Underbelly Cowgate

spineTumbledown stacks of books in wooden boxes comprise the set for Clara Brennan’s fierce, fast-paced monologue. In it, Brennan follows Amy, a hot headed teenager from Willesden who meets an old woman, Glenda (with the intention of robbing her) and ends up making a close friend.

Rosie Wyatt hurtles through the monologue at a belting pace in a blur of period pain, friends, fights, books, shit, empathy and egotism. Wyatt gives Amy ferocity, but tempers it with hints of vulnerability too. When she describes first meeting Glenda to the audience, she almost shies away from doing the old lady voice, but sort of sighs and resigns herself to it. Similarly, before revealing the crimes she has committed, the things she is not proud of, Wyatt twists uncomfortably with reluctance and embarrassment. The way she describes a brutal beating from her boyfriend, the way she doubles up in pain, is excruciating.

What takes time to realise is that, though this is all coming from the mouth of Amy, Wyatt has in fact created two complete characters. The stereotypical old lady voice that represents Glenda becomes a character in itself, and Glenda seems every bit as on stage as Amy.

Brennan confronts every grim issue du jour from payday loans to political apathy and recreates a world on stage that, though many of us do not live it, we can still recognise. Spine tingles with grim, brutal honesty, without ever recoiling from reality, like Amy noticing Glenda’s airy farts as she dies. It jerks tears without patronising or cheapening its message, and it buzzes with power. It does not feel right to clap at the end. It feels right, instead, to sit in the darkness and the silence and, for a few moments, just to absorb some of that power.

Spine is at Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61) until 24 August. For more information and tickets visit the EdFringe website.