Sad Eyes to Smile With

Aug 15 2019 | By More

★★★★☆    Painful knowledge

Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Venue 236): Mon 12– Sat 24 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

It is rarer than you might imagine to find Fringe shows whose title accurately reflects the content. Sad Eyes to Smile With, by Activising For Change at Greenside @ Infirmary Street, is definitely one – a bittersweet piece whose sadness is nevertheless combined with a determination to keep hoping.

Writer-performer Ink Asher Hemp’s one-hander is described as ‘queer identity plus slam poetry divided by austerity and multiplied by three,’ and it is difficult to think of a better way of summing it up. Except that the ‘slam poetry’ part makes it sound much more assertive and shouty than it is.

Ink Asher Hemp. Pic: Meg Goodwin

There is certainly poetry here. This is something enhanced by the script simultaneously appearing as a projection – although, when the spoken and written word do not quite tally, this can be distracting.

Hemp’s ruminations on the effects of austerity on day-to-day living are entwined with, and as effective as, reflections on society’s continuing unwillingness to accept people whose identity cannot be neatly labelled.

compulsively creative

Early on, they declare that drama is ‘sometimes an escape, and sometimes a slap in the face.’ Of course, it can be many other things besides, and this piece – compulsively creative, often elusive, but always rooted in reality – is more of a wistful exploration of those things that unite and divide people.

Ink Asher Hemp in Sad Eyes to Smile With. Pic: Meg Goodwin

The insistence on hope in the face of so much to make you despair gives this production more force than many much noisier calls to arms. If the occasional observation approaches the banal, it is all nevertheless rooted in everyday experience and in emotions that are accessible to all.

Commendable efforts have also been made to make the performance practically accessible to the largest number – something that is far from easy when Fringe venues often seem to be located somewhere in Castle Gormenghast. The combination of low-tech and hi-tech in the unfussy staging also adds considerable charm.

Hemp’s poetic self-awareness make for an illuminating and inclusive performance. There is sadness here, and justified anger, but their sense of humour always shines through.

Running time 50 minutes (no interval)
Greenside @ Infirmary Street, 6 Infirmary Street, EH11LT (Venue 236)
Monday 12 – Saturday 24 August 2019
Daily (not Sun) at 12.35 am
Tickets and details:

Facebook: @ActivisingforChange
Instagram: @ActivisingforChange
Twitter: @ChangeonStage


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