Gabriella Leonardi invites you to a series of her birthday parties. The problem is, each one is more disappointing than the last. This show is full of so much hope, but also contains scenes which explore sexual harassment, sexual abuse and suicide, could also be triggering.
The venue, Junk Poets at Caravanserai (Brighton Fringe venue), is perfect for this performance. Essentially, the venue is a miniature circus tent and Gabriella has decorated it perfectly for a party in the late 90s, early 2000s – complete with cow print, pink sparkly hanging streamers and party bags for the audience on every seat.
From the moment we entered the venue, we were transported into Gabby’s world which felt so nostalgic and cutesy. Yet this very quickly changed as we understand and see Gabby’s character turn more and more into a damaged soul. Her character is bullied and beaten down and yet every new birthday there are wishes and hopes of moving forward. In a show where there is only one person on stage, it is ever so easy to do too much to fill time but this was not the case here. Gabby portrays this character wonderfully, every facial expression, gesture and word felt purposeful, nuanced and intentional.
I didn’t know much about the show beforehand - I like to be surprised - so I did not realise that Gabriella Leonardi is a poetry author and had a collection of 2 books. This explains her incredible ability to tell stories and explain complicated thoughts and ideas in a simple, beautiful way. She is also a model in real life and brings in the experiences and problems she has seen in the creative industry. She is incredibly talented and uses that talent to raise awareness of important issues such as sexual abuse and mental health.
The performance is filled with many twists and turns. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It has voiceovers, dance, poetry, poi balls (I had to look up what these were), and a lot of nostalgia throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and left feeling good and hopeful. There was one line in the show that particularly stood out to me: “When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up but now I’m a grown up all I want to do is play”. I think this sums up the whole show.