Doing Time With Number Five

Thu 31st July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Henry Holmes

at 09:37 on 2nd Aug 2014

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Doing Time With Number 5 is an intensely personal piece, mainly documenting solo performer Clare Pickering’s deteriorating relationship with her family as dementia slowly encroaches upon their personal lives. This entirely autobiographical show also explores the ongoing war between family and career that all people face. We also get a very specific angle on Pickering’s Australia, typified almost exclusively by her long haul plane rides across the country to confront ‘God’, her agent on the east coast and her family on the west coast.

The show starts then moving through conventional solo theatre tropes that at the time seemed somewhat aimless, but were later redeemed by bittersweet callbacks later on. We understand her familial relations as an adult so much better with the background provided of her childhood, even if that isn’t presented in the most effective way. Nonetheless, the intensive second half decidedly counterbalances this admittedly shaky start as we delve into the intricacies of Pickering’s relationship with her father, and how she deals with the unpredictable convolutions of family life.

All this being said, the show does provide Pickering a way of showing off her various talents. A pseudo-showreel of the various bit parts of her acting career ends in a performance of Tom Lehrer’s ‘I Hold Your Hand In Mine’ and the occasional light-hearted moments in the melancholic goings on of the main plot provide an oasis of respite from the hard-hitting issues. The emotional whiplash that can arise from this kind of change of mood is offset by the total sincerity of the performance. The acting very effectively develops a personal connection with the audience that pulled us along, deep enough into the details of her family life to almost be uncomfortable, which all fit in well with the small performance space and sparse design of the set and lighting.

This is Pickering’s first solo show and her debut in Edinburgh, as well as an early attempt for the production company, only founded this year, and, this only being the second performance, the greenness was noticeable as things didn’t go as smoothly as they might have. However, the show as a whole was powerful. It was at its best as it slowly developed a very believable and very poignant father-daughter relationship, and the whole audience were clearly affected by the emotional depths of the piece.

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Anna Grace Symington

at 10:05 on 2nd Aug 2014

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Doing time with number 5 is Clare Pickering's debut one woman fringe performance. Written and performed by Clare herself, this performance will appeal to those looking for a tug on the heart strings.

The show takes place in the Spotlites' small underground studio; so be prepared for an intimate atmosphere. A desk covered in papers, chair and large map of Australia make up the set. These set the tone of simplicity and informality that runs throughout the show.

The piece is slow to start as Clare lays out the various difficulties of her life as an actor in her mid thirties, a writer who can't finish a play and introduces the audience to her family - two parents and almost enough kids for a cricket team. However Clare's calm voice and easy manner are comforting and this is pleasant to listen to.

As the performance develops the value of this initial get-to-know-you becomes apparent. When Clare comes to sharing experiences of her parents' dementia viewers are likely to be surprised by how much they have come to care about the woman in front of them in such a short space of time.

In her performance Clare affects an earnest honesty that sometimes slips into that recognisable nervousness one feels when sharing intimate aspects of one's life. Clare's family feature heavily in her story, most prominently her father. Clare performs these rolls in the same manner with which she presents her own character. The result is a show that focuses not only on the hardships of the individual but also the individual's fallible perspective on their own experiences.

The title reveals its meaning , in part, when Clare explains that, as the fifth child in the family, her father's pet name for her was Number Five. Her father, then, is 'doing time' with his daughter. This is an illusion to the prison like conditions, in both the physical world and their own mental world, that the daughter and the dementia patient live in. 'Doing time' is also suggestive of Clare, the little girl who is 'doing time with daddy'. The viewer is reminded that when it comes to our parents we are all children no matter how old we are.

Although the show does not reach an obvious emotional climax it nevertheless succeeds in moving the audience. This is perhaps because it lacks the pretentions and contrived movements of more formally structured pieces.

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