Theatre review: The Surrender
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: The Surrender at Gilded Balloon (venue 14), reviewed by Joyce McMillan
If there were a polite word for anal intercourse, I would use it now. But there is no such word; and since this particular sensual experience is the whole subject of Spanish actress Isabelle Stoffel’s remarkable one-hour monologue, based on an erotic memoir by dancer and writer Toni Bentley, it’s best to be clear from the outset about what’s on the menu, as Stoffel leads us through the story of a young woman’s sexual life, from early experimentation and brief marriage, to the wilder shores of sexual pleasure.
What’s interesting about Stoffel’smonologue, though, is that unlike many of the other shows in Edinburgh that dwell on what seems to be the sexual experiment of choice among would-be cool Fringe-goers, this sustained piece of writing belongs to the time-honoured tradition of French intellectual erotica, reaching back to De Sade, and actually tries to offer some analysis of why people might be drawn to this experience, as a physical and emotional journey.
For a British audience, there’s a distinct sense of mixed messages, as Stoffel delivers a serious lecture on the meaning of sexual adventure one minute, and then whips off most of her clothes and offers a kind of solo live-sex show the next.
Whatever you make of the show’s text, though, it has plenty of style, some ﬁne rose-coloured lighting and design, and an absolutely classic De Sade-style narrative arc, from initiation to ecstatic experimentation to bleak emotional crisis, and then to gradual resolution.
MORE INFO: The Surrender is at Gilded Balloon (venue 14), until 26 August
Originally published in The Scotsman