You’ll have the measure of the eponymous Delphine as soon as she speaks: or perhaps, from your first glance at her demure yet pretty costume. She’s the girl next door, friendly but anxious, eager to please and all too keen to laugh at her own jokes. Clare Rebekah Pointing’s solo show builds a loveable and sympathetic character from Delphine, who’s recently turned 30 but is as naïve as a schoolgirl when it comes to matters of the heart.
Delphine’s monologue is engaging and gently amusing, as she takes us through the series of events that have shaken up her once-settled life. She’s met a man, you see – we suspect it’s the first man who’s ever tried to court her – and she’s slowly coming out of her shell, developing the confidence to stand up for herself and haltingly learning to have fun. There’s the implication it won’t be plain sailing, but it’s a spirited story all the same, which follows predictable pathways yet takes occasional surprise diversions onto spikier ground. Along the way, there are some nice observations on everyday life, a few great comic lines, and a lot of comforting warmth.
At times, Pointing breaks into her monologue for brief dance sequences – a shimmy with a trolley in a supermarket is a particularly memorable highlight. There’s something quirky and enjoyable here, nicely matched to Delphine’s ever-so-slightly kooky character, but I think it could usefully be further heightened. The audience responded well to one particular vignette, defined by sharp and unexpected transitions in and out of the musical insert; consistent use of that technique could lend the show something it’s currently lacking, a memorable visual style.
But the main issue I have with Delphine is that the stakes don’t ever feel high enough. For Delphine herself, the events of the story – blushing at an inopportune moment, messing up a chance encounter with a man she’s got a crush on – might well seem the most important things in the world. But looking in from outside, it’s hard to see them as any more than amusing trivia, the stuff of anecdotes to share with friends. We need to see more of Delphine’s vulnerability, I think, so that we can identify with her inner agonies and travel on this journey of self-discovery along with her.
I’m also not sure that the play’s big message will quite resonate with its audience. In essence, Delphine tells us that – even though we know we’ll take some knocks – it’s important to get out there and engage with the world. When all’s said and done, that’s a pretty basic life lesson; some of us learn it early and some of us learn it late, but the people who have still to embrace it probably aren’t sitting in a Fringe theatre at 2:15 in the afternoon.
So I think Pointing has work to do refining her concept – or perhaps, just casting her existing concept in sharper relief. But this doesn’t detract from the quality of her performance, or the likeable and believable way she evokes her character. I’d like to spend another hour in Delphine’s company – and next time, I hope I’ll hear about all the adventures she’s learned to have along the way.