Haley McGee invited us into her comedy show at Summerhall, Venue 26, telling us she was surprising her comedian boyfriend for his birthday. If that wasn't an interesting enough start to a show we were also given balloons to blow up and throw on the stage, then we were plied with vodka - actual shots of vodka.
She took us through the plan of dimming down the lights and singing Happy Birthday - with the right note to start on of course. She began to tell us about what he's like, even reproducing some of his comedy on stage for us, even funnier for its second hand nature in such an odd setting. However, as we awkwardly waited for the boyfriend to turn up, with her filling the time by telling us about him, it became increasingly clear that something was not quite right.
As the show progresses, McGee's instability begins to show through - well, her character's - and she deteriorates further and further throughout. it is sad and uncomfortable but incredibly amusing to watch. There are moments which are downright disturbing, for example when she audibly simulates having sex with him in the dark, but the awkwardness makes it utterly hilarious.
The woman is lying not only to us, but to herself; she is in denial and as more and more is revealed, she keeps deteriorating and the show ultimately becomes quite tragic. We know she is suffering mental health issues, and the play is a excellent representation of this suffering. At first it could seem like an old fashioned caricature, with her blonde bob and sixties dress and overdone make-up, although it becomes clear that this is an image she has given herself. As she looses her grip this pristine image is gradually lost, contributing more and more to the overall discomfort of the show.
I'm Doing This For You is awkward and difficult in places, but it serves to add to the overall effect and really make you think about your role as an audience, watching this utter chaos unfold. It is funny and sad, uncomfortable and moving. A haunting work about what people are willing to do for another, or really themselves, this brilliant piece of contemporary tragi-comedy will make you feel everything.
* * * * *
I'm Doing This For You is showing at Summerhall 4.45pm, 12-28 Aug (excl 15 and 22). More details and tickets can be found on the Fringe website.