Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: Dazzling, Dazzling Theatre, EdFringe 2023 ★★★★★

Content Warning: Discussions of Substance Abuse

Iridescent, glowing, and brooding, Dazzling is a desperately captivating exploration of loneliness and relationships. Platonic elasticity ebbs and flows between the people Alix encounters in the throes of their early 20s. Balancing a dead end job sees them struggle with a lustrous sense of creativity bubbling underneath. A brilliantly organic central performance from Charlotte Scott-Haynes unwraps a troubled soul with candour and crisp lucidity. Soulful and introspective, this tightly directed piece opens up a meaningful conversation about the maintenance of relationships without ever preaching. Flitting between cosy and anxious, Scott-Haynes keeps hold of you for the whole fifty minutes, and offers up a chance to reflect on the right ways to let people into your life, and the right ways to let them go.

The piece handles an intense breadth of themes that affect Alix throughout. The cycle of emotional wringing and unfettered debauchery weather against their sense of self, leaving them to attach their self-worth to those in their periphery. A stranger, Fiona, enters their life with tender aloofness and a tactile sense of romantic love. Fiona comes to fill the gap that Alix’s long-time platonic friend Jan left following an explosive discussion about their futures. Though Fiona and Jan never materialise, and are not embodied as characters in a physical sense by Scott-Haynes, a symbiosis of the writing, direction and central performance create a sense of wholeness in the story-world that creates a three dimensional picture of them in your mind. As Alix slowly grows resentful of their dead-end job and lack of time to express themselves, we feel a moment of self-destruction appear on the horizon.

That explosive moment that takes place on the floor of Alix’s clothe and rubbish-filled bedroom feels vivid and enrapturing. The anxiety she feels reflects onto the perfectly built sense of tension that draws its energy from a unity of plot and tight direction that sees Alix go beyond empathy with the audience. You really come into the place of panic and destruction that Alix finds themselves in quite unassumingly, only to see their whole life fall apart in front of them. This sees them turn back to the world of the platonic and entrusting instead of the sensuous and in=temperant. What really shines is the production’s focus on presenting the process of healing in relationships as exactly that – a process. Rather than neatly tying up ends we see Alix begin to heal their relationship with the expectation that time, and effort, will go into that undertaking.

A general sense of contemplation and respect surrounding the issues that Dazzling tackles bathes this piece, and makes the environment for discussion feel welcoming even if the issues are unsettling. Covering substance abuse in a nuanced fashion is never easy, and Alix embodies a realistic approach to understanding and aiming to resolve a difficult relationship with alcohol and other substances. It feels as though that all the care which Dazzling puts into exploring the maintenance of human relationships goes further, to a relationship with the things we consume and how it affects our sense of being. Scott-Haynes’ monologue performance carries these issues poignantly, but never drops you into them, it’s a slow release into a well-orchestrated kaleidoscopic unravelling of the issues on show.

Performance and design rush in tandem toward a semi-playful, semi-naturalistic love letter to a life lived in human connection. It’s remarkable that Scott-Haynes pulls off such an un-stalling sense of wholeness in the piece, aided by the set which permits them to leap around on their bed, hop across stools and turn their bedroom into a landscape to try and make sense of the last six month in their life. The design has a sense of punkish-ness to it that befits the grittier ends of the piece, but also allows for moments of calm and reflection.

Breath-taking in its ability to hold you tight, Dazzling keeps you contemplating on the rights and wrongs of our connections with one another, and how we can recognise when and why our relationships need maintaining. Compassionate, ripe, resilient – Dazzling paralyses you with its’ candid take on human dependencies.

Recommended Drink: Dazzling is a glowing green Grasshopper cocktail – rich, minty fresh, powerful stuff.

Catch Dazzling until August 22nd at TheSpace @ Niddry St – Studio at 13:10. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.

Jake Mace

Our Lead Editor & Edinburgh Editor. Jake loves putting together novel-length reviews that try to heat-seek the essence of everything they watch. They are interested in New Writing, Literary Adaptations, Musicals, Cabaret, and Stand-Up. Jake aims to cover themes like Class, Nationality, Identity, Queerness, and AI/Automation.

Festivals: EdFringe (2018-2023), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Prague Fringe (2023), Dundee Fringe (2023)
Pronouns: They/Them