Now That She's Gone

★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 09 Aug 2011
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Set beside her mother’s deathbed, American writer and actress Ellen Snortland’s one-woman comic drama gazes back over her wild youth as a flower-child feminist activist, sexual libertarian and drug addict. It's an uninhibited life lived in stark contrast to that of her stoic Norwegian mother Barbro who, despite being an Eleanor Roosevelt-loving progressive that always did right by her kids, could never bring herself to admit she loved her youngest child. Heck – why waste good money working these things out in therapy when you turn them into a Fringe show?

“This is not a mother-bashing piece,” she assures us at the start, and it’s not. You can feel the affection Snortland has for her parent-of-few-words, as she recounts a string of awkward moments they shared. These range from her mother walking in on her using a hand vibrator as a teenager to having to ring home from college and confess to being caught dry-humping gym apparatus while tripping on acid. They’re all stages on a journey towards some kind of mutual understanding, if not quite resolution.

It’s a tale so strange it could only be true, but it’s clumsily and disjointedly conveyed, playing out like a jumble of half-remembered anecdotes from a hastily-written memoir. It doesn’t help that Snortland is a slightly manic performer often guilty of garbling her punch lines. While it’s always pleasing to see someone use theatre as a means of coming to terms with genuine experiences and emotions, more skillful acting would allow you to fully share in them too.