A play of bitching, bragging and bawling, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress is the story of five bridesmaids at a wedding. As the piece progresses, the women uncover secrets, treacheries and lies in a psychological mishmash of strong emotions.
This was an unusual choice for the Edinburgh Fringe. It was the first show I have seen at the Fringe that is over one hour long, and the only show I have seen with a programme longer than a single sheet of paper. It also took more than five minutes to clear the stage (which is quite the luxury!) due to the large and detailed set.
For a play of such length and ambition, the actors engaged the audience well. The dynamics between the women was absorbing; I got the sense that all the cast were good friends and were all on the same level as actors. The play had enjoyable dynamic contrasts – alliances shifted, friendships were formed and broken, and the general flow was good.
Interestingly, none of the characters were straightforwardly likeable except for Lucia Proctor-Bonbright’s Mindy, who I found to be the only easily relatable character. In addition to a believable accent, her characterisation was bubbly, sincere and sustained. Other stand-out performances came from Lucy McIlgorm and Pheobe Mallinson.
While the relationships between the women were evocative, the story was hard to follow. I did not get a sense of a clear plot, and much of the dialogue seemed to just be gossip between the women. Besides this lack of forward motion, the overall atmosphere of the production was cohesive. The set was elaborate and ambitious for a Fringe production, but suited the play and had impressive attention to detail. However, the costumes appeared cheap and ill-made, even if they fit well with the general aesthetic.
Overall, despite a length incongruous to the Edinburgh Fringe and an unclear story-line, the acting in this particular ex-Oxford production is its strongest asset.