Ed Fringe 2019: Madame Ovary at Pleasance Dome
Madame Ovary is a varied thing: part Power Point presentation, part spoken word, part conversation with a friend. Written and performed by Rosa Hesmondhalgh, this is the true story of her battle with ovarian cancer. It’s not an easy ride, yet Rosa takes us through her journey, from symptoms to diagnosis to treatment, with honesty and humour. There’s even a celebrity appearance onscreen (but you’ll find no spoilers here!).
Interwoven through the show is Hesmondhalgh’s own poetry. An early highlight is, “I won’t eat anything with a face, so clocks are off the menu”. Her rhymes serve to add beauty to the play’s unavoidably dark subject matter. As the piece nears its end, she talks about living like a ribbon of fabric, picking up the dust of life, the insignificant times as well as the notable ones. Kudos to Rosa – she proves herself both an engaging storyteller and an eloquent poet.
As actress, Hesmondhalgh is capable, friendly, confident. She’s never in danger of overacting, instead trusting in her tale. There are moments, like when she watches a montage of friends’ well wishes on the projector screen, that it seems she could be feeling emotionally overwhelmed, and we’re reminded what an intensely intimate thing it is to be hearing this true account straight from the horse’s mouth.
What is there to learn from Madame Ovary? Today’s statistics say that cancer will affect one in two people, which means it’s a certainty that some of the audience will have butted heads with the disease at some point. Madame Ovary can’t offer any cure, any avoidance advice. Instead it‘s a reminder to cherish friends, to sweat the big stuff rather than the small, to remember how many people are climbing their own invisible mountains, and that the world has as much beauty in it as things to fear.
After the play’s end, just about every audience member wants to give Rosa a hug, causing a huge blockage on the stairway from the Jack Dome. There are people crying, others wanting to share a word or two about their own experiences. Madame Ovary isn’t an easy journey, but it’s a cathartic, life-affirming, important one.
Photo: Chantal Guevara
Madame Ovary is at Pleasance Dome from 9th until 26th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Read more reviews from our Ed Fringe 2019 coverage here.
For further information about Edinburgh Fringe 2019 visit the festival website here.