PASH review: Never Been Kissed Comes to the Fringe
**** 4 STARS
We all know the shows about sexual awakenings, we've read the books, seen the films, watched it play out on stage. But what about a kissing awakening? As Max (played by Olivia McLeod) approaches her 25th birthday, she begins to dwell on the fact that she's never been kissed. And being 24 and kiss-less has a very different societal ring to it, and not for the better. But whilst Max attempts to find a willing participant for her perfect, Princess Diaries foot popping smooch, but what happens when the expectations don't meet the reality?
Written, produced and performed by talented newcomer Olivia McLeod, Pash is a brilliant one woman show that documents the pressure from society to follow a standard that indicates developing at the correct pace with all of your peers. It's a concept I seldom see spoken about on stage and when in film and TV shows, we equate the first kiss coming of age trope to generally being under the age of 20. As a teenager, losing my kiss virginity seemed to be the gateway drug to *whispers* S.E.X. and so the idea of another humans tongue down my throat PETRIFIED me. But that didn't quell my curiosity, however my fear led me to being what society would call a "late bloomer". Eventually when I had my first kiss it was to someone rather awful and I immediately wanted a restart. A fresh new pair of lips to join the race again. It's something I have always been slightly ashamed of, but watching Pash onstage, I felt seen.
After I confirmed the definition of a "Pash" with the ever so trustworthy source: Urban Dictionary (pash is the Australian slang equivalent to 'snog') I found out that McLeod is in fact Australian, the title of the play acts as a really touching tribute to her own quarter life coming of age challenges back at home. McLeod is a brilliant writer and performer, the script itself is both heartwarming and hilarious and the audience can follow the story with ease. With an energy onstage reminiscent of Greta Gerwig's Ladybird and Frances Ha, director Miranda Middleton does a superb job of using the small space to navigate to Max's advantage. Armed with just a bag and a chair, whilst Max takes the audience on her journey to securing her first kiss, the stage elements are so well laid out there is no room for error. And as the play continues, McLeod begins to wonders if her first kiss has to be with a guy? One part of the play I did not quite understand occurred towards the end where Max reverts into third person and sort of summarises the plot so far. It would have been an interesting concept to explore, a subtle way of hinting to the audience that the story is not autobiographical however this third person narrative was not revisited again and just abandoned.
But Pash is a truly wonderful play and I'm excited to see what McLeod and the Seemingly Wholesome Productions produce next!
Starring Olivia McLeod
Written and Produced by Olivia McLeod
Direction by Miranda Middleton
Sound Design by Samantha Andrew