Review: Nan, Me and Barbara Pravi

A Eurovision crush becomes a disquieting obsession

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 06 Aug 2023
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Hannah Maxwell

Hannah Maxwell's latest show is a story of infatuation – or obsession – with the French Eurovision star Barbara Pravi, which developed while Maxwell cared for her grandmother in Luton, after her grandfather's passing.

The simultaneous love and pressure many feel while looking out for an older relative is effectively rendered – all the chaos, the life-and-death jeopardy, that awaits if there's the slightest slip dealing with the admin of keeping up with appointments and drug dosages. 

The show's set design has a beautiful simplicity and tricolour theme, including a white three-panelled folding screen on which so much of Maxwell's daily life is nicely projected – including care-giver schedules, Countdown conundrums and lovelorn scrolling. It enhances the depth of the writing as we move from Nan's living room into the interior and disquiet of Maxwell's mind. 

As her single-mindedness with Pravi grows, Maxwell leaves Luton and begins a downward spiral – yet one she conveys with pep in an eclectic performance which showcases her range: a sensuous dance with a mop, the awkwardness of a misguided bunk up, the electric misfirings of an over-stimulated brain.

Nan, Me and Barbara Pravi sets up a sense of foreboding, centred on Maxwell's caring duties. But the importance of her presence seems inconsistent over the play. As much as the mesmerising force of Pravi drove everything else from her mind, we see only how the consequences of that absorption effected Maxwell.

Yet the play ends triumphantly on two notes – one of unvarnished honesty and humility, the seeds of growth and recovery; the other a powerful vocal calling in Barbara Pravi's language, the language of love.