She’s the Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon-Master taking on creepery and geekery at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Self-admittedly, Ellen is well qualified to talk about the geek category, and the anecedotes she uses from this domain revolve around her time spent playing the aforementioned roleplaying game.
In the domain of the creeps, Ellen takes inspiration from her experiences as a woman on nights out and in various other spaces. Taking shots at lad culture, we learn about the nefarious origins of the word “Slaggle”, alongside some broader topics such as the vomit-inducing barbarity of Sambuca and the fear of a Terminator-style sex robot army rising up to attack the general public.
Ellen’s comedic work is matched with a sombre and quite potent recognition of the ramifications that ‘creepiness’ has on women. We explore the origin of the term through Urban Dictionary. She asks us to consider what encompasses creepy behaviour and also how sometimes innocent men spend time trying to prove they are not creepy. Ellen remarks about a middle-aged man joining her otherwise female-dominated yoga class, his attempts to make them aware that he isn’t creepy, and Ellen’s own encounter surreptitiously copping a feel of his chest.
We take a moment towards the latter half of the show in which Ellen steps away from the mic and recounts a story in which she thought she was in serious danger to a creep. It in fact turns out to be one of mutual misunderstandings, but recognising that barriers between human beings and a culture of violence against women can make such difficult situations tumultuous and morally ambiguous. This section wasn’t really predicated by any indication, and was pretty stark in comparison to the lighter material. I can’t help but feel that it could have been signposted a little better to make it more impactful.
Ellen’s on-stage persona is a quirkily likeable character. You can tell from early on that she lives in a geeky world and early jokes about vans in the woods and their relationship to nerd-sex are deeply funny. Without spoiling, the ending of the play uses some wonderful call-backs and feels like a great sum-up. Insecure straight men be advised – pegging is not just mentioned, but a deep and hilarious part of this show.
There were occasions where unfortunately Ellen’s jokes fell a little flat with the audience. Some reworking of timing and clarity with speech could help to improve this. Ellen spends time when a joke falls flat simply repeating the punchline in a silly voice, which doesn’t help her cause in this case and is a tiny bit cringe-inducing. Ellen’s character is inevitably a little bit awkward given her outwardly nerdy persona, but she needn’t hide behind funny voices when things don’t quite go to plan.
Overall, Sasha Ellen: Creeps and Geeks takes more than a hearty stab at the subject matter she covers, offering a fresh perspective delivered by an endearing storyteller. Her anecdotes are often giggle or smirk-inducing, we just need a little bit of reworking here to get more of a polished feel.
Recommended Drink: Go for it, have a shot of sambuca and enjoy the projectile-vomit fest afterwards.
Catch Sasha Ellen: Creeps and Geeks at Underbelly Bristo Square, Daisy, until August 29th (not on the 16th) at 16:15. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.