Amée Smith: Relax, It's Not About You

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Nina Klaff

at 01:12 on 21st Aug 2016

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If, like me, the beginning of a play shapes your judgement of it, the first few minutes of Amée Smith’s 'Relax, It’s Not About You' presents as a daunting hour. With the house lights still off, she introduces herself with an awkward, stunted rendition of Cilla Black’s 'Anyone Who Has A Heart', accompanying herself on guitar. Badly. So badly, in fact, that even she can't deny it. As the lights come on, she tries to make light of the situation by asking audience members which chord she is playing. Her hands are shaking, no one is enjoying it, and yet she continues.

The premise of the piece is endearing: a last-ditch attempt at claiming her life back from an ex who has wronged her, by appropriating things that had always been his. He is a comedian who dreamed of performing at the Fringe, and here she is, with her own show. He’s an amazing guitarist, she tells us, hence her motivation in lending herself to the skill. She is unapologetically herself, and to have the courage to lay yourself bare as she does is certainly commendable, but unfortunately that’s where her confidence ends. She asks two audience members to keep a tally of the appropriateness of her set, firmly placing her in the role as the quirky, useless woman in her thirties who needs help with everything.

She objectifies the single men in the room in a manner that, had the sexes been reversed, would have caused an outrage, and I’m not surprised as two of them leave.This actively undermines the independence she is so desperately trying to claim.

She marvels that people would choose to listen to one person talk about themselves for an hour, saying had this been at a party, we’d be less inclined to listen. I beg to differ: at least then, you’d have been spared from spending the hefty £10 she charges for attendance. On her sixth "Shut up Amée," it takes some strength for me to resist pointing out that generally, one decides what to put in a show that is being performed daily beforehand, and that is why most pieces undergo rehearsal before the performers stumble over themselves in front of strangers.

Anyone who’s ever loved would understand her motivation in trying to get her own back on her ex, and this is perhaps the most imaginative form of therapy I’ve ever come across. An egomaniacal stab at Bridget-Jones-style vulgarity and incessant self-deprecation, with a Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl aesthetic, may well be what she needs to get over her broken heart. But for those of us on the receiving end, it presents as nothing more than self-indulgent. I will give her some credit for trying.

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Zoe Bowman

at 09:13 on 21st Aug 2016

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What do you do when your ex-boyfriend's dream of performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival goes unfulfilled? 'Relax, It's Not About You' sees Amée Smith take to the stage. This one-woman show is inspired by break-ups and make-ups (and subsequent break-ups). It culminates in a lighthearted and comedic, if not somewhat self-indulgent performance, about the turbulent world of relationships and the lessons they teach us.

Smith opens the show in darkness, wielding an electric guitar and singing an uncomfortable rendition of 'Anyone Who Had A Heart'. This initial unease must not be taken to heart; whilst 'Relax, It's Not About You' has the potential to come across as an awkward production inspired by bitterness and scorn, Smith's self-awareness is communicated perfectly through her frequent acknowledgement of these assumptions. In fact, this is often used to her advantage, creating comic moments throughout the production. The script is strong, with a number of her personal anecdotes well-executed. From dating apps to china owls, the audience is provided with amusing stories which build up the image of a woman caught up in a confusing and ever-changing dating game.

However, 'Relax, It's Not About You' is not without its problems. In terms of the script, Smith often tends to give in to a more self-indulgent side. Despite constantly affirming that this production is most definitely not about her ex-boyfriend, we see her list all of his "less nice", or even "bad" qualities; a somewhat childish move in a production that claims to focus on what toxic relationships can teach us, as opposed to directly shaming her ex. Whilst Smith's charm and charisma keep this mostly lighthearted, at times it is difficult to judge her intentions.

Overall, 'Relax, It's Not About You' is a quiet triumph for those freed from negative relationships. Smith manages to steal her ex-boyfriend's thunder, but not in a malicious way; the point of this show is to build herself up, rather than tearing her ex down. The result is an optimistic, amusing performance.

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