The Fair Intellectual Club

Aug 16 2017 | By More

★★★★☆    Hysterical resonance

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241): Mon 14 – Sat 19 Aug 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

Arkle’s take on The Fair Intellectual Club is a beautifully performed, extremely funny piece of theatre.

Lucy Porter’s play takes its inspiration from a real society in early 18th century Edinburgh that was formed in order to give young rich women the intellectual stimulation denied to them but afforded to their male counterparts.

Tricia Brown, Felicity Cullen and Hannah Bradley. Pic Arkle

The play first appeared to acclaim at 2014’s Fringe. It later became the basis for a Radio 4 sitcom, but that should not put anyone off. While stand-up comedian Porter can certainly put in funny lines (and at least one thoroughly filthy joke) there are serious points being made too, about feminism and nationalism, that bridge the divide between 1717 and today effortlessly. It also deals effectively with friendship, love and self-knowledge.

The cast more than rise to the challenge of the material. Felicity Cullen’s Thalia, a self-declared beauty eager to stress her Englishness, is a pitch-perfect comedy performance. Tricia Brown’s poet Poly has just the right balance of knowingness and naivete, while Hannah Bradley’s frustrated mathematician Clio has a fire and complexity.

All three performances are simultaneously very funny and utterly believable. They are helped considerably by Rob Mackean’s pacy direction, which ensures that the show flies by.

There is some low-key audience interaction that is gentle but has a bite to it, as do many of the contemporary parallels in the script. Some of these are on the lame side, and some of the message is spelled out a little too obviously, but the hit rate is enviably high.

As an exploration of the perception of women in society, and how much (or how little) it has changed in two centuries, this works very well. As a straightforward piece of comedy, it is equally successful.

Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241), 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE
Monday 14 – Saturday 19 August 2017
Daily at 6.15 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Company Website:
Facebook: @Arkle-Theatre-Company-90472754009

Review of the original production: ✭✭✭✭✩ Witty hit


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