Review by Rosie Holmes
In PurSUEt is a tale about a woman obsessed with Sue Perkins of Bake off fame and one half or presenter/ comedienne duo, Mel and Sue. After two critically acclaimed runs at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the show has just finished its time at Vault Festival and now continues on its UK tour.
There is more to the show than meets the eye and this is more than simply a show about this obsession. Going in to the show, I thought it would be a funny, humorous piece about a celebrity obsessed woman (it is) but what unfolds throughout the hour of the show is so much more. The piece explores addiction and alcoholism and crisis in a touching yet funny way that showcases Higgins talents’ both as a writer and actor.
The show opens with star Eleanor Higgins waking up underneath a Christmas tree, half of her eyelashes missing and last night’s heels still on. In a chaotic first few minutes, we see the unnamed woman dashing to her therapy session. Its is through this session which the narrative of the piece is framed. As ‘woman’ talks to her therapist she is also talking to us, the audience, giving us access to her often unreliable thoughts and retellings of her pursuit to win over Sue Perkins.
Through her therapy session we hear ‘woman’ tell her therapist that all would be well, if object of her affections Sue would just be her girlfriend. From here we hear tales of ‘woman’s’ relentless pursuit of Sue Perkins. ‘Woman’ blags her way into after parties and VIP areas all in the hopes of getting to chat to Sue, the encounters with her unrequited love become even cringier and lies she tells more elaborate. At the same time, ‘woman’s’ desperation grows, her drinking increases and as the audience we see her descend into crisis, leaving us feeling equally as frustrated as we are concerned and sympathetic towards her.
It is here that the piece really holds its power, whilst Higgins is wonderfully comedic- her impression of Sue was fabulous and lines such as you’re in denial, ‘no that’s a river in Egypt’ had the audience chuckling throughout, it is the more poignant parts of the play that make it a show worth seeing. As the show goes on, the story becomes less about woman stalking her celebrity crush and more about the emptiness that the crush has been hiding. The piece delivers an important message- no amount of love for another person can compensate for a lack of self-love.
Eleanor Higgins is both writer and star of this show. She commands the audience throughout, whether in times of seriousness or in the light hearted comedic moments. Higgins does a wonderful job of portraying the other characters in her life and delivers the show with an earnest rawness. Whilst fictional, the piece is based on Higgins’ own experiences and this makes the show even more powerful.
Towards the end of the show we see ‘woman’ hit rock bottom, portrayed by a staggering Higgins in the eye of a hurricane of sound and noise. This is a sobering scene and is wonderfully delivered by Higgins, but is made all the more effective by clever sound and light design. We are tangibly able to see the lighter and darker moments in woman’s life through the light design which effectively intensifies woman’s thoughts as she speaks to her therapist as well conveying her mental state and increasing drunkenness.
That being said, it did feel like the climax of the show arrived around 10 minutes late. Whilst it was important to show the gradual journey of ‘woman’s worsening mental state and the realisation of her problems, some of the show did feel too drawn out. Whilst there is a clear message to this tale and a darker undercurrent throughout the show, I can’t help but feel this should have been embraced a little more instead of sometimes repetitive anecdotes of her encounters with Sue.
The piece presents an interesting premise. Unique in its ideas, there is definitely something that everybody will be able to relate to in this show; not something I thought I would say about a show that follows the stalking of Sue Perkins. Higgins delivers the writing with heart and tenderness as well as excellent comedic timing. This is a show that explores the dangers of our modern world, addiction, substance abuse and a lack of self-love in the most unique and captivating way. This makes the show well worth watching.
In PurSUEt continues its UK tour until the 30th June 2023, more information and tickets here- Arts & Entertainment | Bush Productions