I daren’t admit it to the main character of this afternoon’s show, for reasons that soon become clear, but I went to the same secondary school as Sue Perkins. One of my most tangible claims to fame, and not a great one at that, is that I briefly used her old music textbook. The reason I wouldn’t admit it to the woman in this show, is that she happens to be completely obsessed with Sue, and the fact that they should be together.
In Pursuet is a story about addiction, obsession, and the trivialisation of alcohol abuse in our society. It’s told through the eyes of a nameless woman, who we meet in a therapist’s chair. She’s talking about her relationship with alcohol and drinking. She doesn’t know who she is without a drink, or how to have fun without it. Despite these being claims that many of us would dismiss, the comments trigger laughter throughout the room. The type of laughter that says “yes, I know exactly what you mean”.
What is less relatable, hopefully, is the woman’s celebrity obsession and physical stalking of Sue Perkins. Whilst this makes for some very funny moments at the start of the show, it soon becomes uncomfortable and worrying as the level of obsession increases. Some of the anecdotes are amusing to watch, but there’s a lingering darkness which could have been embraced more during the performance.
Eleanor Higgins is brilliant, totally inhabiting the role throughout, she’s very easy to watch. Towards the unsettling climax of the show, it’s hard to take your eyes off her no matter how much you want to. She also inhabits Sue’s character scarily well when required, although her impression of Anna Richardson required a fair amount of imagination!
Particularly well done was a drunken stumble home; you could well believe she’d been drinking significantly dangerous amounts. With sound effects used to show the dangers she finds herself in and the women that try to help her, it was unsettling. This was one of the few moments of the show where sound and stage action worked in harmony. At other times sound effects and music were used to demonstrate location, but it was difficult to hear Higgins speaking over the sound. This could though have been down to my seat’s location, in front of a speaker.
There’s something about this show that leaves you wanting more. The level of obsession is clearly problematic but it’s not wholly believable. You also find yourself leaving the theatre with lots of questions. Why Sue? What led her to develop this obsession? Is it really as easy as a restraining order and throwing away a bottle of wine? Despite this, Higgin’s script is funny and she is an engaging performer: it’s an enjoyable hour (in a rather draughty Vault Festival location) that flies by.
Written by: Eleanor Higgins
Directed by: Tom Knight
Produced by: Bush Productions
In PuSUEt plays at VAULT Festival next on 4 and 5 March. Further information and bookings can be found here.