Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 Theatre Review: Poof! (Gilded Balloon) ★★★

A gentle, lyrical piece that highlights the importance of magic and hope in today’s world.

Celeste Lecesne in Poof! Photo credit: Andrew Moore.

Expertly performed by Celeste Lecesne, LGBTQ+ activist and co-founder of the Trevor Project, Poof! is a monolgue play with songs, written by V (formerly Eve Ensler). The piece has a lot of humour along with a sincere call to arms, touching as it does on the legacy of Fairies, queer history and climate change. Lecesne builds a strong rapport with the audience from the start, and the narrative is both engaging and surprising.

There are many lovely moments in Poof!, which encourages daily affirmations and asks “who will see us as we want to be seen?” An origin story of sorts, our narrator reveals their journey to self-acceptance, coming out as a Fairy in the face of unaccepting parents, then flying the coop at 18 to live a full and authentic life.

There is also a parallel drawn between the mythical and the real, as Lecesne’s character talks about Fairies not speaking out for witches when they were vilified and burned at the stake, and now realising they have to stand up for others and the environment. In a spellbinding section, Lecesne seems to fully transform into an elderly witch, who talks about moving to the forest with her lover to escape persecution – their characterisation is so acutely observed, and their physicality is absolutely superb.

Despite all of the beauty of the writing, and Lecesne’s outstanding performance, Poof! does feel a little disjointed, with various strands that are not fully integrated. That said, it is an absolute pleasure to spend an hour in Lecesne’s company, and the earnest plea at the heart of the work is for love, hope and positivity – things that we could all do with more of in these difficult times.

By Deborah Klayman

Poof! plays at Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh until 28th August 2023.

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