Colourful explosions pop and sizzle in Pip Dawson’s hilariously visceral account of her experience with ADHD and queerness within her new show Character Flaw. It’s a plethora of topics to cover in such a short space of time but Pip navigates it in true flow that we climb each peak and trough with her never weaning in attention where ironically, weaning in attention seems to be the focus. Pip’s ability to be utterly charming means that her difficult stories are handled with expert deftness creating an atmosphere of learning with exploration accessible for all. A tightrope act of having us crying with laughter to genuine heartache amalgamating into an authentic piece of representation.
The show is an exploration of life with ADHD before you knew you had it, what happens after, the importance a diagnosis can have on our self-perception, and an exploration of queerness in relation. Pip educates and explains symptoms such as Rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD), Emotional dysregulation, and Hyper-focus in a multitude of fun, quippy anecdotes that take over her body and soul one moment before breaking my heart in the next.
There’s a strong use of other mediums to help convey her messages throughout. This is largely done through the use of sound. Via recording, we are introduced to Jean. Jean comes across as a personification of Pip’s ADHD, taking the form of her inner thoughts. At some points, Jean is the cause for her inattentiveness and at other times the voice of her RSD telling her not to tell the sad bits of the story “because no one wants to hear that”. I really enjoyed the fact at no point is Jean portrayed or comes across as a villain. Jean is simply there, and she just wants to help albeit she is sometimes misguided in doing so. It could be so easy to vilify her, to blame her for the reason this is happening but instead, Pip’s managed to create this type of double act that you are constantly rooting for, and as the story progresses, we see the complexity of this relationship switching from a nuisance to what almost feels like a friend by the end.
Pip’s a gorgeous actor to watch on a stage because of the amount she’s able to give. Her ability to bounce off Jean in collaboration is like spinning gold from the wheel. She’s playful and dances from one story to another, so varied that it would be impossible to get bored. Whether it’s watching her physically inhabit a story with her many thousands of props or it’s a lovely little song. Pip creates chaos but in true ADHD fashion it’s an organised one and Pip knows exactly how to use it in order to win us over.
While a large portion of this piece is rooted in humour there is a huge emotional core. Each tale is a pleasure to watch sure but we can see something bigger happening and growing progressively. It starts subtle. A gentle dismissal of her negative emotions but with each funny story that ends up in disaster we watch it take its toll on Pip resulting in an explosion of anger. While this was effectively displayed, I would have loved to have seen slightly more playing between the light and dark emotions. At points it felt like negative emotions such as the anger that comes with Emotional dysregulation were more implied than fully embodied. I would have liked that moment to be held slightly longer as we were quick to move on from it.
Regardless I was genuinely impressed with the vulnerability that Pip is able to share with us and the way she is able to represent time throughout the piece. We go from moments of face paced chaos to pip holding us still, allowing us to feel the whole weight of that moment. Moments where she’s been dismissed by people, called names, or finally when she talks about what getting that diagnosis means for her and her growing acceptance. I was gripped by her speech about the reality of a diagnosis, creating this idea of loss. We’re reminded of the exploration of her sexuality and how she had dismissed it because she thought she was just impulsive and frivolous. About how her dyslexia was caught at a young age but this somehow was missed. At the pain of knowing that currently wait time lists are 5 years and that the media is promoting this idea of ADHD as a rising trend. This dichotomy of her happiness of finally having an answer directly against her grief of lost experience and the upheaval battle of learning to accept her ADHD in the wake of new medication is powerful and devastating to watch. A reminder that no one path is correct.
With every twist and turn in Character Flaw you’ll find yourself having a great time sucked into a strong narrative and charismatic performance. It’s a show that gives in every possible conceivable way. What a joyous example of Neurodiverse representation and I feel better for having gone to go see it. A pleasure to watch.
Recommended drink: Vodka Redbull for that energy kick!
Catch Character Flaw from the Aug 8-12th, 14-19th, 21-26th at 17:20 at Greenside @ Nicholson Square – Lime Studio. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.