Sophie Walsh-Harrington has achieved the impossible and made Celine Dion a magnificent b**ch in The Damsel in Shining Armour.
Celine Dion songs are re-imagined as the shining armour of a melodrama queen with delusions of love grandeur in this hysterical flight of fancy, a one-woman show written and performed by the force of nature that is Walsh-Harrington.
Damsel in Shining Armour is one of the many small gems that Nexus Gallery has hosted throughout Adelaide Fringe. But Miss Sophie would not be satisfied with anything less than me saying that she is the jewel in the crown!
Sophie isn’t your typical fairytale damsel. Cartoon birds don’t fly around her head magically twisting her hair into braids like Cinderella. A Prince Charming doesn’t awaken her from a deep sleep with a gentle kiss.
Instead, she has a cheap fan that acts as a stand-by wind machine for her hair when she is getting her grrl on. And she is having far too much promiscuous fun with men, real and imaginary, to go to sleep in the first place.
Bouncing around with the energy I can only muster up after six shots of caffeine, our fair damsel rushes from one situation to the next, worried that if she has a chance to catch her breath, she’ll discover that her life has become her greatest fear: ordinary.
Her repeated catchcry: “One must create melodrama in one’s life.”
And with the panache of a tigress wrestling a mountain ox, she tries to strangle each little bit of reality she can out of her life, with Celine Dion songs as her soundtrack.
She becomes infatuated with taken men, gay men, indifferent men and even a mugger, turning deal breakers for most women into spun gold.
One would-be suitor tells her that the brand new polka dot dress she is wearing especially for her date makes her look like she should be collecting dog s**t.
Her response? “I like a man who notices things.”
Or her reasoning behind why the man who tried to steal her purse never called her back?
“Well, he works crazy hours, mugging and s**t.”
It’s too bad that she looks at her musical accompanist, Matthew Carey, with a disdainful eye when she considers him for a fleeting moment as a potential suitor. I really think these crazy kids could have had something.
Sophie is kind of like Tinkerbell: she needs attention to live!
The audience were happy to oblige her, clapping, hooting, hollering and making the occasional animal noise at her saucier gestures.
At one point, when reality threatens to creep in after one romantic fantasy too many has been thwarted, Sophie goes on what I can only describe as a lover bender: she describes increasingly fantastical and hilarious scenarios of different men finding ways to woo her.
It’s moments like this where the cracks in her melodrama show. Sophie might hit the high notes of Celine with comic flair, but there are also touches of vulnerability and poignancy when she sings, hinting that her melodrama isn’t really escapism so much as a veneer to convince others that she is living a life less ordinary.
When Sophie returns home to the UK after meandering to faraway places like Paris and Summer Bay on her quest for storybook love, I found myself rooting for her to keep trying to defy the laws of reality.
What’s so wrong about having your head in the clouds, anyway? That’s the best place to be, really, if you, like Sophie, are searching for what the French call “une coup de foudre”; the lightning strike of meeting your soul mate.
One thing to remember, b**ches. We’re all stars. But Sophie is the brightest of them all.
Writer & Performer: Sophie Walsh-Harrington
Directed: Tom Dickins
Musical Director: Jennifer Kingwell
In collaboration with The Jane Austen Argument (2010 Adelaide Fringe – Best Cabaret)
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