To tell a tale that’s true, even when it isn’t, with charm, depth and humour is an impressive thing. On the Edge of Me is the tale of Remi (Yolanda Mercy) fresh out of uni, fighting to find a job and a sense of self worth. It’s a very familiar situation for a millennial crowd, and Mercy is so keen to talk about modern life and mental health with such honesty and warmth that you can’t help but leave this possibly pessimistic tale feeling optimistic.
Remi is a great narrator, a friendly aspiring poet who introduces us easily and without pretense to her life. She has a wonderful, easy way with an audience that gets them onside, not relying too much on laughs or audience interaction (both of which there’s plenty of) but on her likable characters. She conjures her world easily, the job centre and shop where she ends up working are populated with a brilliantly-drawn supporting cast, just the right mix of trope and truth. Remi lets the audience in to every aspect of her life, from the substitution of God for Google, to her boyfriend not sending as many naked pictures as he used to. She is open and chatty, especially about the fears that long term unemployment and overwork can foster. She gets right to the nub of the fears of abandonment and of failure that effect so many people who have just come out of the education system, and how this can cripple people on every level of their lives. It hits home hard, but strikes the right tonal balance between funny and fear throughout, making every moment of the show a treat.
There was a little less poetry than I expected, both as actual poetry and in the cadence of Remi’s language. The reality of the tale takes precedence, and the tale is only told lyrically at the beginning and end, with one or two poetry moments in the meat of the piece. The onstage musician (Alex Leith) is also used sparingly, chiming in for some wonderful enhancement of events, but it feels like the possibilities available to an electronic keyboard aren’t quite integrated enough. There was a marvelous moment when an employer, hand down his pants and fag on, asks Remi “Why do you want this position”; she replies with “They’d take my Jobseekers if I didn’t”. Instant discord from the keyboard, like a buzzer on a game show. There was more potential for regular use of both of these that would have complemented the piece as a whole.
The set is an actor’s set – Everything onstage is used as a prop, and this bare bones approach focuses the action on the central debate. The presents for her boyfriend are particularly effective for essentially being sheets of paper, especially when audience members have to present these to the boyfriend in a hilarious sequence.
On the Edge of Me returns in May as part of the Wandsworth Fringe Festival and is worth seeing for anybody who recognizes the millennial malaise and wants to talk about it. I guarantee you will laugh a lot and thoroughly enjoy the company of a very talented, quite anxious poet.