Horizon Showcase: The Talent, Summerhall (Main Hall), Review

The Talent by Action Hero - Deborah Pearson - Photo Ana Viotti
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Action Hero / Deborah Pearson
Gemma Paintin (co-writer), Deborah Pearson and James Stenhouse (co-writers and directors), Yas Clarke (sound designer), Alex Fernandes (lighting designer), Camilla Clarke (set designer), Tania El Khoury (dramaturg), Sarah Warden (producer for Action Hero).
Gemma Paintin. (Off-stage voices Deborah Pearson and James Stenhouse).
Running time

In a sound recording booth clad in acoustic tiles Gemma sits isolated, practicing voice exercises, running through vowels as level meters flicker above.

“Breakfast is complicated, but you know what’s simple? … being the best version of yourself” she delivers animatedly.  “Can it sound more breezy, fun?” asks a director on talkback.

And she delivers, clearly gifted she can make tiny quicksilver changes, seeming able to achieve anything that is asked of her, creating imaginary realms.  Next up is an immortal pilot, authoritative, but fun at the space bar, sassy because she can be and spicy, not spacey.  The demands keep coming encompassing bleeding gums; a cartoon beaver; unexpected item in bagging area; scalable traction in a reimagined future space; fun time bath times in an accent of someone crossing between France and Germany.

All their increasingly ridiculous and surreal demands are met with equanimity, even when prodded with her work being “too..something” or being asked “are you really going to do it like that?”.

Working from home there are the usual problems of dodgy communications and interruptions.  “I had a baby – I’ll be right back” explains a director.  Gemma likes to keep busy; it’s been a difficult time for all of us, life is complicated and it’s hard not to think about the bad news, those loved ones we have lost, comments one of the directors.

When Gemma is asked to depict how it feels to leave the house after weeks of isolation the proffered solace could be less than philosophical.

Having set out its stall this devised piece is somewhat repetitive, albeit amusing, and could have greater depth and a more impactful pay-off, but it is carried gloriously by Paintin’s incredible dazzling performance.

An imaginative and lingering look at the human voice, loneliness and how unscrupulous free-market commercialism will continue to sell us everything except what we need, even in a crisis.

Show Times: 22 to 27 August 2023 at 2.35pm.

Tickets: £15 (£13).

Suitability: 12+.