Notorious Strumpet and Dangerous Girl by Jess Love – Summerhall, Edinburgh
Jess Love is a circus performer, with skills on the trapeze and with hula hoops that make ordinary mortals gasp. However, her show is in the setting of an AA meeting. Love, from a strict Christian family of teachers, went the other way and became addicted to drink and drugs while touring Europe in various circus shows. Her story is a catalogue of grim blackouts and gathering despair, and Notorious Strumpet is her attempt to come to terms with the way her life has gone.
The show is multi-layered, too much so at times. At the heart of the show are Love’s remarkable circus skills, as she performs a trapeze sequence while pissed, terrifying the audience. There is also audience participation, as Love is sometimes too drunk (in her story) to read out the AA pronouncements that now guide her life. She serves tea and biscuits as we file in. There is family history as Love uncovers a drunken great-grandmother, the ‘notorious strumpet’ of the title. And there is science, with an attempt to track addiction genes using bingo. While there are excellent scenes, which make the evening memorable, the whole does not hang together well. Questions are left hanging, particularly how Love went from being in a very bad place only six months ago, to touring a fringe show. The audience would love to know.