Alice Fraser @ Gilded Balloon

Alice Fraser's Empire spreads its ideas too thinly, but is an impressive and ambitious hour

Review by Ben Venables | 23 Aug 2017
  • Alice Fraser

Alice Fraser doesn't so much cover the waterfront in Empire, than ponder existence and the nature of the universe itself. Particle or wave, good or evil and the trinity of religions which influenced her background in different ways are all woven through the hour. Demonstrations of these big ideas through more everyday ones are also part of the set: whether it's with a serenading song, a great story about her bereaved father's trip to a comedy club or with a friend who finds out her long term partner is a complete arsehole.

The latter routine briefly touches on the difference between memory and experience with an impressive light touch. Meanwhile, it's all delivered while Fraser is dressed as the 'Emperor of the Universe' – a costume that looks something like a dominatrix outfit (or the stuff the 1990s wrestling tag team The Legion of Doom used to wear). 

Empire is an ambitious undertaking to say the least. Poor Unfortunate Souls from The Little Mermaid soundtrack plays at the beginning; it's a nod to Fraser's Disney rebellion against her strict upbringing, but also pretty apt in that it illustrates that the show is about two worlds. Unfortunately, Empire ends up being neither land or sea, not one thing or another, and not as a metaphor for the quantum physics theme she threads throughout. There are simply too many ideas here and it always seems Fraser is skimming the surface. Empire therefore becomes a little less absorbing than Fraser's perceptive material deserves.

Alice Fraser: Empire, Gilded Balloon, Teviot (Billiard Room), until 28 Aug, 10pm, £8-11