Pauline is a pure example of storytelling where the words, voices and testimonies of three generations of women meet and confront each other in what turns out to be a moving and necessary memoir for all contemporary women. An all-female story, with a strong feminist character that always remains intimate and never aggressive. A veritable exposé of human nature, of what it means to be a woman, of weaknesses, insecurities, sins even, and of the great moral strength that such a gender role seems to bring with it, the play lays bare three characters, three women who are different but bound together by blood and art, by a love of storytelling and telling. An excavation in the memory of the actress, alone and unique in this one-woman show, who seems to want to cling with all her might to what she still can of her origins, of her family, of her mother’s memories before they fade away completely, and of that grandmother she never knew, a clear and limpid voice, despite the alcohol, in the many diaries that recount a crumbling existence.
The show draws its strength not only from the authenticity of the subject matter, of the voices themselves, recorded and not, and of the many diaries that mingle and blend even, but from the stage awareness of writer and actress Sophie Bentinck. Despite the personal involvement with the subject matter, that of her grandmother’s suicide and her mother’s illness, the young artist does not let herself be overwhelmed by the performance, but masters it with naturalness and lightness, avoiding any form of facile patheticism. In her switching from one role to another, from one voice to another, in her telling even of herself as a young girl, Bentinck also manages to be genuinely funny, to offer comic relief from the theme of illness, decadence and suicide.
And herein lies the true strength of the play: thanks to the writer’s own skilful storytelling and her versatility as an actress, the show avoids selling out easy grief and appealing to the emotional side of the viewer but proves to be a skilful study of the value of storytelling to come to terms with trauma, an atavistic trauma that has been searching for its rightful audience for more than 50 years now.
Playing until 29th August, get more information and tickets at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=%22Pauline%22
Reviewer: Anna Chiari
Reviewed: 12th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★