Edinburgh Fringe Review: Sophie Willan, Pleasance Courtyard

Reviewed by Claire Smith.

Sophie Willan was born to do this.
But the beginning of her life was not promising. Raised in a miserable patch of Bolton to a heroin-addicted mother and with a crowd of unruly relatives Willan had what they call a disrupted home life. 
In this brilliant and very funny show she retells the story of her early years, basing her account on a bunch of papers handed to her by a social worker at a train station. It’s a wonderful device. As the audience hears the excerpt describing a three year old hungry, distressed and drinking cider from a can we can also see the sparky, cheerful girl standing in front of us. What stops this from being a misery memoir is that we know from the start that somehow things worked out for Sophie Willan.
There’s no mawkishness, no sentimentality. Instead Willan retells the story through her three-year-old eyes in a way that makes sense of the chaos. Remarkably, that way of looking at the world still makes sense today. It’s the story of a survivor, but also shows her native resilience, her sense of humour and her williness to look at things in a different way.
Non-comformity has been her saviour.  Willan is a natural rebel, no lover of authority, no respecter of routine. 
It hasn’t always been an easy road but Willan has learned to make her voice her own, which means she can speak with great confidence and assurance about where she’s come from and who she is. You’ll enjoy meeting her relatives, and thanks to her compassion, humanity and wisdom you will understand what made them as they are.
Willan is funny fearless and free in a way that few young people are.  She knows she’s had a very happy and a lucky escape and you will relish hearing how she found her voice, embraced the craziness around her and learned to trust her instincts.

Until August 28. Tickets here.


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