“Shetty’s vigorous physical style, expressive face, and radioactive eyes draw the audience into the action as she regularly makes direct eye-contact with everyone in the auditorium.”
After a very successful tour of the USA including the prestigious Kennedy Centre in Washington DC, this is the Fringe debut for a lively and engaging one-woman play, written and performed by Priyanka Shetty. Here for just the one week in a smallish studio auditorium in a marquee on George Street, be prepared for the driving force of Ms Shetty’s electrifyingly physical performance.
The seemingly autobiographical story tells of what it’s like to grow up in India as a young girl and then defy your family to try and make it as an actress as “a brown girl in Trump’s America”. Shetty’s vigorous physical style, expressive face, and radioactive eyes draw the audience into the action as she regularly makes direct eye-contact with everyone in the auditorium. There is much humour at the expense of the stereotypical features of a female south Asian upbringing: aggressively aspirational parents, judgemental aunts, religion (sometimes in the shape of the elephant-god Ganesha), and Bollywood movies.
Shetty makes full use of the small stage and basic set to vividly re-enact her story in a number of physical styles, including everything from yoga to Bollywood dance and song. As the show progresses, the emotional tone gradually changes from one of youthful optimism underscored by the heartaches of family life and romance, to the stark realities of the American theatre audition circuit. Shetty’s wry depiction of the serial rejections that can be experienced will raise a rueful smile to any fellow Fringe actors seeing this show. As an Asian woman, she often refers to her “otherness”, sometimes self-deprecatingly, sometimes not. This aspect of her life doubles as a significant factor in her own life story and a revealing perspective on everyone else from the perspective of an outsider.
Single-actor shows are quite common at the Fringe, but this one stuck in the mind for me due to Shetty’s often almost conversational delivery. At no time did it seem like a stagey dramatic monologue; rather someone I’d just met showing me the story of their life. Use of props and time-consuming costume changes are sensibly kept to a minimum to maintain pace and story development.
The phrase from which the show takes its title is a common metaphor for embarrassing problems which everyone knows exist, but are scared to mention. After one or two red herrings along the way, we’re left in no doubt at the end by Shetty’s now angry tone what the identity is of this particularly problematic pachyderm – I won’t spoil things for you by giving it a name. This show is only on until the end of this week, so:
Come for the elephant. Stay for a whirlwind performance. Leave having seen a great Fringe debut. So get your coats on and go see this!