Edge begins as a female mirror to Lessons with Luis. Stella is the star in her family, jealous of anyone else getting a hint of limelight, Ashley is her silent suffering cousin who organises the props and other stage managing duties and occasionally gets to perform. Stella’s mother is in the US trying to get Stella TV work in the pilot season but she is ever present, attached to Stella via Bluetooth, guiding Stella through the performance and we only hear Stella’s side of the conversation.
The first half of the show is a fairly innocuous, entertaining character study of a precocious attention-seeking eleven year old with lots of build-up and sizzle as Stella presents her live show-reel for us. There is a sense that we might just be an imaginary audience watching a girl playing at being a star in her bedroom. The actual conceit of the Edge is that she is playing to a room full of entertainment industry heavies trying to re-invent her image from child internet sensation to a more mature almost-teen pop idol. I must admit that I found some of it slightly repetitive and annoying in the middle (as anyone being held captive by an irritatingly vivacious eleven year old would) but was confident that there was a reason that this show had won best comedy show at Melbourne Fringe last year and it turned out that everything was an all important set up for what was to come as the show gradually morphed into something much darker.
The humour becomes pitch black as Stella displays her Edge and the child star references go from Bindi Irwin and Rebecca Black to Nikki Webster, Britney Spiers and of course Miley Cyrus. Edge is not just about children in the media and the adults who exploit them but also about the sexualisation of children and the infantilism of women. Phew. The tone is perfect however and even when things feel like they are heading over the edge things never get out of hand and the audience’s potential unease is kept in check by the laughs and Stella’s wide-eyed naiveté.
Isabel Angus is remarkable as Stella with all the mannerisms, and expressions of an eager to please 11 year old trying to appear older than she is, but also with that underlying vulnerability that proves that she is still a child. At the same time you never forget during the show that Isabel the grown woman is playing the child which helps keep things comedic. We see less of Rachel Davis but she holds her own as the antithesis of Stella’s extraverted character, Ashley, exuding as much charisma as Isabel in her small but vital role. They’ve created an amazing, intelligent and entertaining piece of theatre and deserve an appreciative audience. It’s having a short run, so get to it!
Edge! is on at The Tuxedo Cat until April 8