Review: MEAT, Elle Dillon Reams, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I’m going to start this review with a very bold statement: MEAT is the best thing at this year’s fringe and if I could give more than 5 stars, then I would.

This was a bit of a last minute choice for me. After filling my diary with requests, I tried to put in some interesting ones from the festival line up to fill spots. MEAT sounded intriguing and, I’m so glad I saw it. It was my last show of Ed Fringe 2023, and one I will not ever forget.

Coincidentally, I felt that I had seen a lot of feminist theatre while at Edinburgh this year, a lot looking at bodies, of consent, of domestic and sexual abuse. The quantity for sure does not shadow the importance of these productions. But there was something about MEAT that was unlike any thing I’ve seen, within this topic and others.

MEAT looks at women’s bodies, their own and others relationships with them; through weight and puberty, sex and growing up. Elle taps into how the body changing and judgement affects a woman growing up, and digs deeper into their subconscious than anyone making certain comments would think. It looks at sexual assault, how it strips away the empowerment and confidence of women and how we must build that back up. That these events are not our fault or should be felt guilt about from a victim.

Elle swaps from informal discussions with audience members, where we are asked to be involved in movement, with suggestions, discussions – they are always comical and fun and there is a sense of ease with her – we are her friends and nothing less. She transitions into spoken word which is poetic and powerful, engaging and trance like. There are skits of becoming a comedian, of other influences and commentary bundled into a character. There is physical theatre, movement, there is singing and dancing. There’s moments of sheer highs and moments of dark lows. And the way that Elle flows between all of this is graceful, it is so slick and so profoundly emotional. She is also absolutely hilarious and the belly laughs I felt were real; from her incredible ability to improvise, to her genuine humility.

Elle touches on some really tough subjects. She speaks honest and freely, addressing us all in unison but somehow, individually. She tells us that these incidences are not our fault, asking us to sit and live in the feeling we have when she is up front and straight with us about this. She is warm and comforting, and there are little dry eyes in the house as anyone who has experienced such interactions relives this but feels the warmth of Elle’s words. She notes that the production is scheduled for 1 hour, but that she finishes this early to allow a space for anyone to sit and feel their feelings and feel okay again. She even offers sweaty hugs at the door. It’s easy to bring a production to an audience, noting trigger warnings and when the lights are up and the applause had, let them go into the world. Elle notes, whether from experience or empathy, that there needs to be time to adjust to the shock of the topics and likely memories that are conjured. There isn’t a review comment to be made on this from a theatrical sense, but a personal and arts professional comment that this should be included in most triggering productions – a safe space should be provided and time to digest rather than just unleashing unsuspecting audiences back into the treacherous world after touching a sensitive part of their soul.

MEAT is an absolute powerhouse of a production. It has everything that a theatrical production on the fringe circuit would need and yet it is miles ahead of what the industry is achieving. It is emotional, it is powerful, it is utter perfection.

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