76th Edinburgh Fringe: REVIEW
"Grier needed to take a little step back, look at Sunsets and the message it was sharing, and begin editing."
Written & Performed by
August 14, 2023
"Denver" writer/performer Georgie Grier has an unhealthy, or healthy, relationship with romantic comedies. Denver is able to pepper her narrative with references from The Notebook, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, you name it, which further illustrates the fondness she has for romantic comedies. In the final episode of Denver’s ever-popular podcast series, will the live studio audience get to witness Denver's happy ending? Will she finally find "true love"?
Earlier in the Fringe this year, Georgie Grier went viral for posting a heartfelt message on Twitter about the fact that nobody had turned up the previous evening to see her show. Twenty-four hours later, her show was sold out, and it goes to show that the power of social media is still there, as a lot of support for Grier came from some of the biggest names on the comedy circuit, offering their support and helping to ensure the rival moment became super-rival. When I decided to come to the Fringe this year, Sunsets was the first show I booked, and much like a lot of the audience that has come to see Sunsets, I wanted to see if it was going to live up to the hype.
Getting the type of hype Grier has gotten for her show can be double-edged; the expectation from the audience can become immense, and living up to this can be next to impossible for a performer. A few shows—let’s be honest, a lot of shows—will perform this Fringe to zero audience members; some might take to social media like Grier; while others will just soldier on and put it behind them.
Grier's taking to social media puts a huge spotlight on a show that, at best, is jumbled. One can't take away from Grier’s writing, which does show emotional depth, but it’s the tackiness of the props, particularly the pink mic, and some of the story that kept me from being fully immersed in the show and connecting with Denver. Added to this, several references to ‘producer Hannah’, as a plot device to cause some behind-the-scenes drama in the podcast world, just got exhausting and perhaps seemed more as a way of deflecting from the story or affording Grier some breathing space between moments.
For me, these were two shows that only gently connected, one being about rom-coms and the unrealistic expectations they have that their audiences have no way of being able to obtain. And there is the relationship between a daughter and her mother, which was so beautifully captured in a line from Meg Ryan in 'You’ve Got Mail' when she’s decorating her Christmas tree and says that she's "missing my mother so much I almost couldn't breathe."
When you hear this line in Sunsets, you realise that there is more substance in this piece that is trying to come out, and when you reexamine some of the classic rom-coms, you can't help but notice there is actually more heart, more love, and more feeling in them than even they realise. Using rom-coms in this way to unpack and examine the hidden relationships and stories could have given Sunsets greater depth than it has. Instead, the audience gets a mixed bag—a manic performance that is never as funny as it wants to be; this is a dramedy at best. But then again, Sunsets isn’t really a laugh-a-minute comedy; it is a drama that presents itself as a satire on the silliness of the podcast generation and rom-coms.
There are moments in Sunsets that are smart and well observed, but Grier needed to edit at times, which would have created a greater flow in the narrative for her audience to follow. And it is because of this that we never get to appreciate or understand why Denver is this way or why she needs to feel that her life can only have purpose in this idealised relationship. At one point, Denver uses a box of audience suggestions that this audience didn't suggest, and it is here that I would have gotten some genuine audience participation by having one of the ushers ask the audience waiting in the queue to write their favourite rom-com film moment. This could have been seamlessly incorporated into the show and built a connection with the audience, the character, and the wider narrative.
"Instead, the audience gets a mixed bag—a manic performance that is never as funny as it wants to be; this is a dramedy at best."
Another aspect of the show I just didn’t connect with was the 'satire' of podcasting; there is no joke there. Yes, there are hundreds of podcasts, yet much like YouTubers, bloggers, and Instagrammers, podcasting is just another vehicle for talent-limited, overly optimistic, and opinionated people who believe that their voices matter most, when it's all just a grift to make money, become famous, and get that TV deal. The more Denver spoke about the podcast, the less connected I felt to it.
Going into Sunsets, perhaps I was too biassed in my expectations, and perhaps I wanted something more, something with a greater level of depth, but I didn’t get it. There is a lot of passion, care, and love that has gone into making Sunsets. This show, having gone viral, has gained a lot of attention, and that inevitably will bring with it a greater level of scrutiny, especially from audiences. Grier needed to take a little step back, look at Sunsets and the message it was sharing, and begin editing. Some of the asides seemed forced, and the climax was a little unnecessary. Right now, the message from Sunsets is mixed, and as brilliantly passionate a performer as Georgie Grier is, this alone isn't enough.