The 'Big Idea' behind the latest Disney Pixar film, Inside Out, is that behind our eyes, five cutely personified emotions control our lives. The 'Big Lesson' is that sadness should not be sidelined or supressed, but is in fact every bit as important and formative as joy, fear, anger or disgust. If we could peer through Alice Fraser’s feline eyes, we would see sadness enthusiastically pushing the buttons and pulling the levers.
Savage is the kind of show that happens when a smart and talented comedian tackles the extreme and painful suffering of a family member. It trades guffaws for insights into how art can fleetingly transpose pain into beauty. It sparks the occasional muted laugh of a complex idea—on the nature of faith and belief, say—taking root in the audience thanks to a perfectly poised bit of prose. It is, ultimately, done a disservice by the necessarily reductionist demands of the Fringe programme; Savage sits uneasily within the comedy strand, eyeing up the spoken word section instead.
Fraser gives us a glimpse of what would happen should sadness cede her control panel over to the emotions that normally power comedy: joy (it looks like a smart-arse talking banjo, folks), anger and disgust (both saved for someone who tells her he “believes God heals” while her mum has wasted away for decades). Fear doesn’t get much of a look in.
But it is sadness that gives the show its clarity and its purpose. And it is the reason why people leave early. For some, this is a Big Lesson too far. For the rest, it earns Fraser well-deserved hugs if not uproarious laughter.