I’ve described a lot of shows at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe as “unique”. It might seem that using the word so often devalues and diminishes the meaning but that’s not the case. The fact is that every particularly “unique” show I have seen has been unique in it’s own…well…unique manner.
#Instalove is probably the most uniquely unique show I encountered this Fringe. Of all the unique shows I saw, this one most stands out from the unique crowd. Certainly it’s also the most interactive I saw, and the way it uses its interactivity is the most engaging, in the very literal sense of the word, of any show I’ve seen at Fringe.
Taking the form of a dating show, this one-woman performance sees Catherine Duquette move with disconcerting simplicity between four contestants of starkly different personalities. Though she does this by nothing more than stepping from one side of stage to the other, the sudden change in voice and body-languages leaves an audience with no doubt as to which contestant they’re now hearing from. At points, one even forgets that Duquette is not in fact four separate actresses.
The interactivity of the show is beautifully done. The audience are invited to open up about their thoughts and feelings to the performer and each other. It never feels like an interrogation, or even a group therapy session. It just feels like sharing a little what’s in your heart and mind with room of people willing to hear it. And that’s something very nice to experience once in a while. It never goes too far; the performer does not probe too deep and people are invited to share only so far as they feel comfortable.
You relate to Duquette’s characters, but relate to each of them separately, and some better than others; hence the voting aspect of the performance. You are drawn to certain personalities above others and come to view and judge them separately, and it is these judgments that determine just how the performance is going to go that day. I only saw the show once, but can only imagine just how many directions it could potentially go in on days when the audience lean more towards characters left out of the spotlight on others. That said, one thing must remain constant; Duquette’s talent as a performer. Whichever character she is conversing with you through, it compels you to open up and be honest, feeling safe and valued in the space she has created for the audience.
#Instalove was an experience I’m glad formed part of my 2017 Fringe. I think the people who enter that theatre space, regardless of whether they ever speak to each other again, leave feeling they have all bonded on some level. It’s been a long time since anything as demonstrated so well to me the value of opening your heart up a little bit every now and then.