Review: Elsa at Pleasance Dome

‘Elsa’ is not simply a trending girl’s name. Instead, as Isobel Rogers sings it, it represents an urge “to be somebody Else-a.” What follows is the charming but exasperating third-person tale of Elsa.

Elsa, we learn, passes time at work by eavesdropping on the patrons, voyeurism being one of the few pleasures of the job of café waitress. Through rhyming recounts of their conversations accompanied by guitar, Elsa gives an anthropological survey of yuppie phenomena, from the stress of the rat race to fuck-and-chuck dating to the implications of an Instagram feed dominated with selfies.   

Characters are uniquely entirely female (this is a gal’s-brunch-date kind of café, we get the impression), giving the show a theme we don’t see often: a young woman’s platonic fascination with more successful, aspirational women. This is exemplified in the character Lillian, a café patron who gets her own song that reminds one of Cake’s “Short Skirt, Long Jacket”: “I anticipate/I delegate/I drink coffee with wine/I would drink them separately but I don’t have the time.”

The overall impression was sweet, but at times became annoyingly precious. Railing against millennial culture and steep rents have become tiresome themes at the Fringe: if artists write what they know, it is obvious that the festival is full of self-loathing millennials discovering that a comedy routine alone cannot pay the bills. This exasperation reached an apex with Isobel/Elsa’s awkward rap about “money-jobs,” or service day jobs to supplement other pursuits. Even Rogers seemed uncomfortable by the naïve privilege this song exuded — it showed only too well in her body language.

However, Rogers managed to wrap this distinctly first-world problem into a touching follow-your-dreams moral, incorporating the clear plot device of a little girl with big dreams who keeps Elsa grounded. It was a near-save.  

Elsa, Pleasance Dome, 17-19 Aug, 9.40pm


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