Sephie is probably the oldest girl guide you’re ever likely to meet. At the tender age of 30, she has returned to the scouts in an effort to secure her “Entertainer’s Badge.” Fourth time lucky she hopes. In an hour of high comedy, diluted sensitively by real moments of pathos, Do Our Best is a moving account of grief and one woman’s search for belonging.
Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ plays, Sephie (Remy Beasley, performing her own writing) greets us personally as we enter Underbelly’s intimate Iron Belly venue. Once she has guided everybody to their seats, Sephie, “fizzy-willy with anticipation” tells us just how talented a producer and marketer she is, evident by the packed audience.
As we wait for “Brown Owl,” who will award her the coveted badge, Sephie recounts her torturous childhood plays. “I am a severely talented performer” she assures us, a statement backed up by Amy Cook’s clever design — an enormous close-up of Sephie’s face, prominently displayed upstage. When we learn that Brown Owl’s arm has been ripped off in a freak tractor accident, Sephie’s selfish reaction lets us know just how self-centred she really is. Her needy, pleading histrionics only escalate from hereon in.
If all this sounds a little sickening, it is, but this is why Do Our Best works so well. Beasley’s over-eager, over-wrought performance is ultimately endearing. We just can’t help rooting for her. Sephie has charm to burn. Beasley handles the play’s inevitable gear-change from comedy to pathos with ease. Once Sephie’s frenzies dissipate, Beasley’s writing, raw and truthful, is given its opportunity to soar.
There are many moments that hit home, but her memories of eating Kit Kats with her mother are so particularly heart-warming that we forgive her for earlier indulgences. Later in the play, Sephie searches for solace in the arms of her 19-year-old beau. In a moving description of a doomed romance and an unfortunate goldfish, Beasley captures a picture of a woman in interim — trapped between her past and present self, reeling with grief for her mother.
Do Our Best is directed by Hannah Banister and produced by Francesca Moody Productions. A special shout out should be given to Caitlin O’Reilly, the overly-berated stage manager who works from her desk onstage. Her occasional caustic interruptions, as well as Beasley’s insulting remarks towards her, make for welcome injections of humour, even at the play’s most serious turns.
You can’t quite put Do Our Best into a box — it avoids categorisation. Beasley has created something unique — in her own zealously overbearing, yet amusing style. It’s something of a hidden gem at this year’s Fringe and, hours later, I can still see Sephie glaring at me, daring me to deny that Do Our Best is great theatre. If I had Brown Owl’s invigilating powers, I would certainly award her that badge.
Do Our Best is playing Underbelly Cowgate until 25 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.