Unstitching is an incredibly enjoyable one woman play about art, the universe, self‑expression and Eurovision! The audience is welcomed into the theatre with all the Eurovision hits playing, already building excitement for the show. Ruby Shrimpton uses both standup-style monologues and spoken word poetry to express her ideas on the ridiculousness of modern day, the unintelligible events of our current society, and manufactured emotions. The standup elements are a cross between well‑prepared, quick-witted moments alongside awkward, self-deprecating interactions directly addressing the audience; who are even encouraged to leave if it’s too bad (standing up in a crowd is still less embarrassing than what she has subjected herself to!)
The audience is welcomed into a section of Ruby’s psyche. She simultaneously stumbles over words, unable to speak quickly enough to catch up with her brain, whilst also wishing she could call out ‘line’ in real life. If only someone was there to direct her, tell her what to say and do, what the right thing is. These sections become more and more erratic, and we come to understand her wild, fast-paced mind through them, as they are dispersed in a one person Eurovision party. Loud music and bright lights and one woman desperately dancing to try and connect, as people stare at her and only embarrass her further. Making sense of it is a struggle, but that is the point.
The crocheted costume, which must have taken hours to make (only to be worn in the summer), perfectly encompasses the camp, outrageous nature of Eurovision and of the play itself. It is a surprisingly bold choice for the awkward protagonist, but she chooses to dress this way to ensure that people laugh with her rather than at her: it’s a way to protect herself from criticism whilst expressing herself in a very vulnerable manner. It is also a reference to the title of the play, and one of the overarching themes; literally unstitching loose threads as she reveals more about herself. The costumes resemble something an Icelandic Folk duo may have worn in the 90s on Eurovision; ghastly to look at but colourful and fitting nonetheless. It is a wonderfully funny piece to include.
Shrimpton maintains she does not want to be pretentious and claims artists do not need to be eloquent to be able to express themselves. Yet as she tries to speak openly, from her mind, there are still lovely poetic moments woven in (if you pardon the pun). She slowly unravels the costume she is wearing, getting tangled up in balls of yarn that surround her on the stage, as she confuses herself with her jumbled thoughts. A play having the premise of ‘Eurovision’ does not necessarily imply it will contain any deeper meaning, but amongst the frenzied rambling there are brief moments of profundity.
The wildly incomprehensible nature of Eurovision is an odd yet surprisingly accurate metaphor for the nature of the universe. It is difficult to predict, strange, and things happen for no reason. Still, when you accept the randomness of it, it can be genuinely enjoyable and unironic fun.
A play like this may present itself as an… acquired taste (my opinion as a die-hard Eurovision fan does make this entirely biased). However, this is the ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ of Eurovision plays: you will enjoy it even if you’re not a fan! No prior Eurovision knowledge is required to be able to understand Unstitching, which is ultimately about a woman’s struggle to create something resembling art.
Written by: Ruby Shrimpton
Unstitching played as part of Camden Fringe 2022. It has completed its current run.