‘In PurSUEt’ at VAULT Festival review – Stalker comedy is cringey, clumsy and crass


Fringe hit In PurSUEt is messy in many ways, with no clarity provided at the end of Woman’s (Eleanor Higgins) alcohol-infused anarchy which unfolds over the hour which we spend in her company. An attempt to justify and have us sympathise with an obsessive stalker of Sue Perkins is as awkward and unsettling as the comedy which runs through the production.

A lot of the play is cyclical, but not in a way which suggests clever connections or a creative plot. If we’re not seeing Woman trying to justify her actions to a therapist (we could all do with an escape from the terrible world we’re in, apparently – a hardly convincing or novel excuse for harassing someone), we’re seeing her neck another glass of wine and try to sneak her way backstage at some television studio using an elaborate excuse.

An attempt to sit at the front of the studio audience involves her pretending she’s come with a Deaf friend, featuring the use of some offensive and insensitive sign language, while an issue with her eyelashes is described as an “alopecia reaction to the eye”. Such inflammatory remarks feel so needless and out-of-place when Higgins portrays the character of Woman as timid and fragile, with a constant need for her to justify herself to us. Carelessness like this tends not to go hand-in-hand with someone so self-conscious. A rendition of the Game of Thrones theme tune at one point – another excuse for tracking down the former Bake Off presenter – is just unbearable.

When it reaches a head, Woman is floundering and staggering across the stage, drunk and disorientated, and booted out another event after Sue recognises her from a previous encounter. This is despite Woman trying to introduce herself as a new individual each and every time she tries to track down Perkins, and as someone trying to establish a solid relationship with the comedian and presenter, it’s odd that not once do we get a bit of the monologue about the potential benefits Woman might feel from reinventing herself, or the anguish at having to reintroduce herself with every interaction. It’s not the only sense of expectation I’m left feeling when watching, as the intoxicated walking lasts a bit too long and I’m wondering exactly what is the reasoning or wider problem behind Woman’s obsession.

The answer – and it’s not a spoiler to say this, considering it’s in the play’s billing – is an untreated alcohol addiction. With smudged makeup, she pleads with the invisible therapist not to take away her crutch and tool by which she deals with a loud mind and a wild world. If it sounds a little too similar to where we found ourselves at the beginning of the play, then you would be right, and it’s incredibly underwhelming. I can’t help but feel like In PurSUEt seeks to make us sympathise with a stalker through alcoholism, and like a lot of things in this production, that’s ill-thought out, clumsy and plain insensitive.

In PurSUEt is now playing select performances at VAULT Festival until 5 March.

Production Images: Bush Productions/Eleanor Higgins.

Disclaimer: I was invited to watch ‘In PurSUEt’ for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this article and all opinions stated above are honest and my own.

Think Outside the Box...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: