views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

52 Reasons to Stay Inside
The Canal Café
11th August 2014


Alice May Sainsbury as Emily

Photography provided by ut Theatrum

With it already being the third week of the Camden Fringe, I can't even remember what my house looks like. Emily (Alice May Sainsbury) however is very much attached to her home and doesn't want to go out. Ever. Again. 52 Reasons to Stay Inside is a pick-and-mix of songs, stories and party games - impossible to classify - in which Emily tries to justify to us why she doesn't want to go out and that it's really nothing to do with her possible "social skills or lack thereof".

The one-woman show is performed and penned by Sainsbury, whose dialogue is deliciously dark, but delivered with a smile in a room full of traditional bunting, balloons and Cath Kidson-esque patterns. The contrast between what she is saying and how she is saying it is what keeps the show funny as opposed to out-and-out depressing. As well as chatting to us, Sainsbury takes a few well-known songs like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Dream a Little Dream of Me, repurposes the melodies and adds her own lyrics. Impressively, we can make out every note - and that's difficult to achieve with that Mary Poppins number.

There are some nice touches from director Aime Neeme, particularly in the design. Emily comes across as very natural - she's awkward, deliberately so, but the delivery is polished enough for her to likeable rather than just put us on edge. Always the risk when playing characters who are socially ill at ease, but Sainsbury's performance is endearing. She doesn't shy away from physical gross-out humour either.

The main weakness with 52 Reasons to Stay Inside is simply that it's short. It's a fun but bizarre show and after the 30 minutes are up, we're left with a feeling of "did that really just happen?" We've toasted freedom, questioned the meaning of our own existences, developed a few symptoms of OCD and done this all while snacking on Liquorice Allsorts. There's a lovely mismatch between the serious of the issues that Emily brings up and how insignificant and entertaining they feel at the time. It's only when you start to deconstruct the piece in your mind afterwards that the intelligence of the writing reveals itself.

A cabaret style venue like the Canal Café is perfect for this production. It just needs to be fleshed out more and made to sustain a full hour - or even longer. With an increased running time, Sainsbury could interact more with the audience. Repeatedly picking on one woman who didn't reach for the hand sanitiser quickly enough did prompt plenty of giggles - the performer has enough personality to engage in more of this banter and just get everyone in the room more involved. It is after all a party, and Sainsbury has every excuse to move around.

52 Reasons to Stay Inside is possibly one of the weirdest parties you'll ever crash. It's a clever and witty piece of work from ut Theatrum which is admittedly short, but has plenty of potential. Go wave Emily off and question the meaning of life in a friendly game of pass the parcel.

52 Reasons to Stay inside opened on 11th August and runs until 12th August 2014 at the Canal Café, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Warwick Avenue (Bakerloo)

Follow us on Twitter

Leicester Square







performing arts