CAMDEN FRINGE REVIEW: The Real Girl, Tristan Bates Theatre

running until 20 August

The Real Girl - Camden FringeCherise Stefanie returns to the stage as The Curious Girl, The Sexy Girl, The Have-It-All Girl, The Lonely Girl and, eventually, The Real Girl. Her smorgasbond of trips down memory lane encompasses glitter, dance routines, nail-painting, break-ups and more in a reflection on what has made her the woman she is today.

On her opening night, Stefanie’s performance does come across as a little nervous; her patter with the audience is occasionally stilted and she seeks to explain away the few technical niggles or props errors that creep in, rather than continuing her flow. It would be wonderful to see her hone her stage presence a bit more, as all the ingredients are here for a successful show.

The opening premise is that Cherise has woken up in hospital, dressed as a superhero with amnesia. Is she a real superhero? Does she just have a penchant for fancy dress? The reasoning behind this plot has little development, but it provides a window for Cherise to dip into her memories to piece together her identity. From aged seven and hiding in a cupboard, to flying high in a banking job, to downing wine after a painful break-up: many moments are recognisable and the supportive audience laugh and commiserate along with her – and sometimes get involved on stage, as audience participation is a key element of this show.

Inspired by true events, this is an incredibly open and honest show – sometimes brutally so – and Stefanie appears genuinely appreciative of her audience and keen to make a connection with them as people, not a mass of faces in the dark (if you sit in the front row, you won’t be able to avoid this – you’ve been warned…). This sincerity is the most engaging aspect of the show, and Stefanie is a hugely likeable figure. I’d like to see her develop the theatricality of the show, and to clean up the structure and delivery a bit, so the execution is as ballsy and as captivating as the writing and concept. This brave, warm and touching cabaret-comedy-confessional piece has plenty of promise, and with a bit more confidence and polishing this could be a gem.

The Real Girl is playing as part of the Camden Fringe. Click here for more information.

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