A Spectacle of Herself @ Summerhall

Laura Murphy's one-person show is a kaleidoscopic mix of clowning, aerial rope, comedy and self-expression that manages to be direct and abstract all at once

Review by Rho Chung | 11 Aug 2023
  • A Spectacle Of Herself

Laura Murphy's new one-person show, A Spectacle of Herself, is a wildly funny and deeply touching act of self-expression. Aerial rope, video projections, inventive captions, and a hoverboard come together to make a witty commentary that never feels too obvious or heavy-handed. Murphy's connection with the audience is easy and honest; it feels like a safe place to laugh. 

The piece features all of the things I love the most: gender business, autism, horniness, clowns, and performance art that is brilliant in its stupidity. It's actually very reassuring to find that this extremely niche intersection is not at all a lonely place to be – in fact, horny, gay, trans, performance art clowns have appeared in this very magazine several times this month already. Exploring the mechanics of desire and consumption on her own body, Murphy performs a dazzling series of stunts, skits, tricks, and other unnameable weirdnesses. 

The piece partially orbits a formative 90s TV advert in which heightened performances of gender provided a peek into euphoria for young Murphy. Murphy's account of first seeing the commercial is so direct, so evocative, that it feels like looking through a tiny porthole into her weird, wonderful brain. We get a glimpse of the euphoria this advert gives her; Murphy makes astounding shapes with her body and the aerial rope, turning gender euphoria into a death-defying stunt. 

Murphy's script achieves a remarkable balance between direct and abstract, plain and inscrutable. It is a collection of personal stories and moments that express identity without commodifying it – the saliences in the piece aren't necessarily linked to being queer, trans, autistic, etc (for me, they are, of course); they speak to the experience of feeling different, of feeling behind, and of feeling lost at the end of the world.

A Spectacle of Herself, Summerhall (Main Hall), until 13 Aug, 12.55pm, £13-15