Frances Winston really enjoyed this Fringe offering.
Attracta Tension is an Irish agony aunt. Part Panto Dame, part Drag Queen part Hyacinth Bucket, she is also incredibly indiscrete, sharing the foibles of those who write to her with her eager audience. She loves nothing more than sharing her worldly wisdom, and if she can do it through song, so much the better (and she does have a lovely voice!)
Walking in, the audience are treated to the sight of her salon (or boudoir – whichever you prefer) which sports a comfy armchair, a side table, a decorative screen and, hiding in the corner, a keyboardist (because that is a must have in any salon!) When Attracta makes her entrance, she looks like she just came from an ICA meeting, and she is quick to let us know that she’s from good stock.
Holding court, she explains how she accidentally became an agony aunt, and she takes us through some of her more recent letters, explaining the advice she offers. This ranges from telling them how to use bath salts correctly, to how to throw polite shade when someone forgets meeting you in the past.
This won the Best New Writing Award at the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, and it is true that Attracta is quite a character. She channels middle Ireland circa the late 80s/early 90s perfectly. The show is littered with homages to ‘classic’ (depending on your point of view) RTÉ offerings such as Mailbag and Live at 3. This isn’t a narrative work, and is more like ‘an evening with’ cabaret type event.
On the night I attended, there was a huge age range within the audience, and both young and the young at heart certainly seemed to be enjoying it. And Attracta herself is difficult not to warm to, as she divulges titbit after titbit, but somehow manages never to veer into vulgarity. The humour relies on good old-fashioned snobbery on the whole, and because she does it so knowingly, it is difficult not to embrace it.
It’s not a perfect show. The screen looks as if it hides some promising delights, only to be underused throughout, and one or two of the gags rely too much on a prior knowledge of certain events. Despite this though, I found I had a very pleasant time in Attracta’s salon. The character definitely has great potential, and you leave feeling as if you have just enjoyed some sort of guilty pleasure.
This is a perfect show for Fringe, encompassing as it does many disciplines, and I look forward to seeing what Attracta does next.
Dear Attracta ran at the New Theatre, 43 Essex Street East, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, from 19-23 September.