Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
4 stars ****

THE LEEDS-BASED Paper Birds company are a remarkable bunch.  In 2008, this three-woman collective created In A Thousand Pieces, one of the first shows to look directly at British attitudes to the 21st-century sex-trafficking that goes on in their midst; and this year, they’ve come to Edinburgh with a new show, equally focussed on women’s lives, that takes an exciting if still tentative look at the huge differences in experience that may – or may not – create barriers to real female solidarity.

The show was created through a project which involved writing to a range of women who seemed to have very different lives from the Paper Birds team.   One is an Iranian woman, another a prisoner serving a sentence for an unnamed crime; and then there are the celebrities, divided from us by the apparently glittering prizes of wealth and fame.

With Scottish-based actress Maryam Hamidi added to the cast, the Paper Birds explore their material in their usual complex style, which is finely choreographed, but often looks casual and improvised to the point of whimsy.  They argue with Shane, the only man around, who is in charge of the music.  They cluster around an armchair to stare at the audience and tell us their impressions; and most strikingly, they move like a female human tide through and round and across a set full of small, isolated domestic details – framed pictures, a cupboard, a television set.  In the end, they seem to become absorbed by their dialogue with celebrity, to the exclusion of the other issues they raise.  For a show still in the early stages of development, though, Others is a memorably complex and interesting experience; and completely, forcefully female, from start to finish.

Joyce McMillan
Until 29 August


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