As the world’s largest performance arts festival is underway, we are lucky to have theatre practitioner and critic Masha Tiunova in Edinburgh bringing her reflections on the best recovery-themed shows at the festival.

The show that ‘comediatrix’ Lulu Popplewell has put together is bound to attract audiences. As Lulu suggests, ‘Love, Actually’ and World War II are the two milestones of British culture. When she asks who likes the film, in which she appeared as a child in a lobster costume, most people raise their hands. With such a long career, Lulu is a strong performer. What is more striking is how she uses the time the audience gives her. 

She covers a number of complex topics while making references to the movie that probably bought many of the audience here in the first place. Her insights hold added weight since women often encounter intensified stereotypes around these topics.

First of all, addiction and recovery. Lulu’s journey of addiction is presented in a format of a joyful song. Just like in 12-step meetings, she doesn’t savour moments of active addiction over her life in recovery. Lulu picks up on the audience’s quiet applause when she voices her 8 years of sobriety and reflects on the British people’s discomfort around recovery. She suggests looking at addiction as a number of traits that most people have, that, in the case of addicts, completely overrun them. 

Lulu brings up not just alcohol and drugs, but also eating disorders. This is uncomfortable even for me as an addict in recovery. Not because I’ve had one myself, but because I know from my experience of working with others that they are often the hardest to deal with. One can stay away from drugs, and be completely abstinent from alcohol, but it is impossible to stay ‘clean’ from food.

Second, she mentions being bipolar and on medication – ‘not nervous, just fully mentally unstable’.  Her recollections of going through psychosis with trees talking to her and people suggesting that this was okay, sheds light on the lack of awareness of mental health issues. When people seem quite ‘normal’, society doesn’t expect them to have psychosis.

Third, she covers the controversy behind pansexuality, where you don’t quite fit into the queer culture, but you also don’t relate to the straight culture. I’m also lost between those worlds.

Finally, she talks in detail about “Love, Actually” posing a threat to her recovery. Her minor comment about not being a huge fan of a film was picked up by the media and led to 1,500 hateful comments on the Daily Mail site critiquing her in every conceivable way.

Lulu’s recovery toolkit is made of gratitude, forgiveness and comedy. Her recovery act is joyful and, at times, hilarious. My personal favourite was the angel of Alan Rickman, who forgave Lulu for pissing on his grave. It celebrates the essence of British humour, where you can’t be too dramatic about anything, from addiction to death to ‘Love, Actually’.

‘Lulu Popplewell Actually, Actually’ runs at Bunker 3 in Pleasance Courtyard Aug 13-14, 16-27

“My Edinburgh Festival blog posts are not quite reviews but rather reflections. The reason for this is I look at the show from at least two perspectives: that of theatre, both as a practitioner and a reviewer, and that of recovery, both as a writer for Performing Recovery and a person in recovery. I hope it will provide fresh insights into the work. There are many acclaimed theatre critics out there who have already praised this work. Mine is a recovery angle that allows me to find the moments that might have been missed otherwise.”





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