Eurovision, knitting, and self-expression unite to deliver an intriguing tale of trying to be your authentic self to a room of strangers, the artistic process, and confronting your Europop idols on a livestream. Unstitching minces a collateral set of dis-contiguous issues together in a fun and frenzied thematic pot luck. From frantic Spoken Word to Lip Syncs of your favourite ESC (that’s Eurovision Song Contest to the uneducated) winners, and pop psychology analysis of the way our minds and methods of communicating reflect the unhealthy relationships we have to news cycles and the internet – the format of this show is undoubtedly bizarre. Ruby Shrimpton’s quirky stage persona just about pulls you through the hour, as the content flickers between the lucid and the puffy, in her wild attempt to try and get what’s on the inside out into the open.
Ruby emerges onto the stage with an awkward demeanour amidst balls of yarn that trace the edges of the stage. It’s immediately canny that we are about to see some sort of mental unravelling on the stage, though maybe few could predict just how scattergun this one would be. Ruby recounts the past few years of her life with a special sort of candour – free verse spoken word tangles together nights spent alone watching livestreams of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine with a dedication to the city of Liverpool’s relationship to music. While the thread that connects all of these ideas is thin, Shrimpton wants to fully open up to us and us to fully open up to her – an audacious aim, trying to transcend the barriers of human communication in just under an hour.
This show really wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. The Eurovision sections are wafer thin in terms of what they contribute to the broader plot – often more just offhand comments about her favourite performers over the years. As a massive Eurovision fan myself I was hoping it would be more celebratory of the contest’s ethos, but instead it all feels a little too self-referential to truly show off the unique qualities of the contest. The final pay off of the Eurovision moment and its relationship to human expression is a nice point, but probably doesn’t warrant a fifty minute show hence why other topics have been drawn in. The moments discussing war and livestreams feel quite stark and daunting against the others, and I’m not really sure what I was supposed to take away from it other than it being an observation about the bizarre nature of our online styles of communication, which is not an especially new or nuanced critique.
The spoken word sections are beautifully written but rub up against the Eurovision sections of the piece tonally as well. While poignantly performed, at the end of it all you’re left shrugging your shoulders as to why these themes – Eurovision, knitting, poetry – were drawn together. There doesn’t seem to be any solid methodology. For a piece that is all about the messiness of communication, I suppose it makes sense to have it orchestrated in this way. However, I don’t think it lands an impact on the audience when the focus extracts so much solely from Ruby’s stage persona. It sometimes comes across a little self-indulgent, and a bit aimless.
Recommended Drink: Unstitching is a light and fizzy sparkling wine – without a lot of substance but a bubbly way to spend fifty minutes.
Performances of Unstitching have now concluded at EdFringe 2023. Keep up with the performer online for future showings.