There are flashbulb moments during shows that smack you as being quintessential, could-only-happen-here Edinburgh Fringe, and Sandra Hale tap-dancing in a cave while being watched by two dogs is definitely one of those. The 65-year-old debutant was “dumped” last year, she tells us, which presumably was the impetus for putting this event together. It’s certainly unique.
Hale bills her lunchtime workout as a sort of self-help session, although it’s herself she’s chiefly helping: this is essentially a live version of the sort of motivational speech you give yourself in the mirror the first time you drag yourself to a party after being given the heave-ho, and we’re here as supportive friends, shouting back positive affirmation whenever she asks for it. Well, she might keep us trapped in here otherwise.
In fairness, she’s a genial host, happy to wander off script and engage with happy heckles – or confused canines, if a couple happen to turn up. And she has the Fringe standup structure sorted: a couple of set-pieces, the 40-minute serious bit, the before-the-finale bucket speech.
But you can’t help feeling that Self-Helpless is in the wrong section, as this curious vanity project shouldn’t really be fighting it out with the other Cowgate comics. If she flagged up the break-up earlier—it’s in the late serious bit at the moment—this could be quite an interesting theatrical monologue, about a woman on the verge of a bounce-back breakthrough. Perhaps next year, with the bold standup experience as a cathartic finale: everybody loves a shaggy-dog story.