EdFringe 2022 Review: The MP, Aunt Mandy and Me

Writer and performer Rob Ward’s The MP, Aunt Mandy and Me hits the stage at Edinburgh Fringe’s Pleasance with the impressive one-man show delivering an effective dramatic performance laced with well-pitched humour yet the ability to convey the darker emotion of the narrative’s harder hitting themes of grooming and abuse.

Dom is an aspiring influencer yet struggling to cross the one hundred like mark on his photos. Living with his MDMA popping, Simply Red loving mother, Dom struggles to find someone who appreciates his love of trains and his dreams of being a world famous #instagay. Battling panic attacks and social anxiety, Dom soon finds direction when he meets Peter, an openly-gay MP who gives him a taste of the high-octane gay lifestyle that he thought he craved.

Rob previously brought the stellar Gypsy Queen to the Edinburgh Fringe back in 2018, showcasing him as a versatile, engaging playwright and performer. The role of Dom is one that avoids the machismo of Rob’s previous turn, instead showcasing a young man who dreams of joining the gay influencer A-list. Rob taps into Dom’s infectious excitement for all things from the latest steam train model to a passion for social media. There’s a real vulnerability and naivety in the young man – his distant pill-popping mother and crippling issues with panic attacks further highlighting this.

Yet Dom’s journey is one that finds some hope in his relationship with the vivacious Peter, who opens his eyes to a world of fetish clubs and casual sex, whilst also advancing his career opportunities with Dom working on the MP’s social media. However, Dom’s naivety and willingness to please Peter leads to The MP, Aunt Mandy and Me delving into some challenging themes and tough moments – as the narrative progresses we see that Dom’s wide-eyed optimism has been taken advantage of and the young man is coerced and groomed by the sexually-manipulative Peter. Ward’s well-pitched narrative and Clive Judd’s direction gradually plants these uncomfortable seeds of abuse, Dom slowly becoming aware of the compromising position he has been placed in.

Inventive staging allows The MP, Aunt Mandy and Me to be further brought to life in a dynamic fashion. A stage littered with lights and equipment more associated with a fashion shoot proves to be a versatile canvas, utilised effectively. Shining red lights shimmer atop a scene set in a fetish club – complete with dog mask to further the sense of clammy claustrophobia, whilst the pounding roar and whistle of a steam train soundtracks Dom’s all-consuming panic attacks with an overwhelming urgency.

Tonally this is a piece which showcases a real finesse in its ability to tackle challenging, dark themes of abuse and sexual manipulation, whilst being able to bring some levity to its depiction of the nature of both gay and vapid social media culture. The comic moments only strengthen our attachment to Dom as we witness him desperately crave to live a life that he thinks he should be living. Ward is tremendous in his embodiment of various roles – from that of Dom to Peter and his mother.

The MP, Aunt Mandy and Me sheds light on the hard-hitting theme of abuse in an impressively-pitched human manner. Blending comedy and an emotional conviction allows this production to shine as a vital yet endlessly engaging piece of theatre.

The MP, Aunt Mandy and Me runs until the 21st of August as part of EdFringe 2022. Get your tickets here.

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