Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: On The Edge, Jesse Dupré, Prague Fringe 2024 ★★★★☆

Four wildly different characters; one actor; and a group therapy session that can’t seem to make it past the warm-up. With humour and plenty of spirit, Jesse Dupré’s play On the Edge explores trauma – what it can look like and how to live with it.

Brought to life by the immensely talented Dupré, the play’s four characters take the form of Cheryl, Bonnie, Janet and Linda. Cheryl is an exuberant and eager to please parkour champion; Bonnie is a vapid influencer obsessed with curating an image of perfection; Janet is an obtuse old lady who doesn’t want to be in therapy but keeps attending nonetheless; and Linda is a therapist who can’t make it through a therapy session. It is a dynamic set-up that immediately intrigues and amuses the audience: why is the therapist more tightly wound than her patients? What brought these four women to this therapy group? Will they really be healed by activities like holding a small, wooden disposable fork, closing their eyes and reconnecting to what it feels like? Bonnie says yes, but, then again, she would.

With talking therapy very much being hailed as the must-do wellness act of the 21st Century it is fascinating to see it explored from the angle of a therapist who can’t communicate; who becomes tangled up in her words and abruptly kicks her patients out of group when it stops going to plan. Combined with the fact that Linda can’t seem to escape the presence of Cheryl, Bonnie and Janet outside of group, it initially feels like the play is exploring the burden of trauma on those professionals trained to deal with it. In the bus journey Linda shares with Cheryl, Bonnie and Janet it is ambiguous whether the others are actually there or whether Linda imagines them; unable to leave their voices in her office where they belong.

However, as we learn the backstory of the other women it seems that Linda’s character serves to illustrate that no one is immune to trauma and no one is equipped to deal with trauma alone. When Linda finally finds the words and lets rip her feelings of anxiety, anger and hopelessness she is soon joined by a symphony of other voices telling of their own traumas and the life-raft to be found in connection and communication. It is an uplifting ending yet also strangely simplistic: the therapist finds relief by finally practising her own advice. Part of me wanted to say ‘duh, Linda’ and the other part of me appreciated this portrayal of human stubbornness.

The interplay between the characters of Cheryl, Bonnie, Janet and Linda provides the comic heartbeat of the show – both in terms of dialogue and characterisation. Dupré’s accents are impeccable and the different physicality she brings to each character is transfixing. Cheryl, Bonnie and Janet do walk a fine line between stereotype and believable human character, however much of the comedy lies in the stereotypes – particularly in the case of Bonnie. Nevertheless an extra ten minutes to delve behind the artifice of Bonnie would elevate the themes of the show and give the comedy a more dramatic direction.

One notable aspect of having a singular actor play all four characters is that the boundaries of space and time are harder to distinguish. On The Edge is best viewed as a series of loosely connected character studies exploring the quality of trauma as both an individual experience and a universal condition.

Funny, visceral and ambitious On The Edge is a play that will encourage you to find a more truthful adjective than ‘fine’ next time someone asks how you are.

Recommended Drink: A cup of coffee – stimulating and essential just like the themes of this play.

Performances of On The Edge have now concluded at Prague Fringe. Keep up with Jesse Dupré online for future showings.

Eilidh McKenzie

Eilidh is a writer, reader and avid watcher of film, television and theatre. She loves writing that blends comedy with darkness, and makes public the quirks of life and character that we've been taught to hide. She also aspires to be fluent in Spanish, but so far this has proved far harder than expected.

Festivals: Adelaide Fringe (2024) , Prague Fringe (2024)
Pronouns: She/Her
Contact: eilidh@bingefringe.com