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  • Kate Gaul

Sea Words - Edinburgh Fringe 2023



“Oh I do love to be beside the Sea Side!” especially the imaginary sea side of virtuosic clown Olly Gully who is writer and performer of this comic one-act gem! The Story - Chris and Christine are a seasoned seaside mother-son double-act. But when Christine mysteriously refuses to perform, Chris' chaotic solo-effort takes both dangerously out of their depth. Directed by Sophie Mercell this camp and irreverent 60-minute romp takes a darkly-comic dive into the unfathonable deep. Olly Gully borrows from old fashioned sea-side entertainment and some of the jokes and tropes are deliberately recognisable. The former women’s locker room at Summerhall is set with a red, white, and gold trimmed curtain behind which is the “backstage” where quite a bit is going to happen. There is a blow-up child’s pool full of colourful props, a microphone, and a music stand with several laminated title slides to announce each scene. Gully stands before us in a gorgeous off-white baggy pants suit, blue shirt and red bowtie and cummerbund. From his pockets flow endless silk hankies on occasion.


Olly Gully creates consciously theatrical work with a particular focus on exploring LGBTQIA+ themes and mental health. The happy face of the clown hides its opposite. In “Sea Words” our beleaguered entertainer and his relationship with Christine point to modern day mental health challenges in the modern family. How do we navigate the treatment of mental health across generations when one person needs help but doesn't know what, and the other wants to help but doesn't know how? Other socially conscious themes include the effect of plastics in the sea and sponsorship deals, in this case with a water refinery. Don’t worry – we are on the colourful high seas and character Chris never lets us become becalmed.


Bouncing on the surface of the choppy seas is a three-dimensional character with energy that burns as might as magnesium. Olly Gully keeps us laughing, interacting, and joining him in the occasional blue joke. His beaming smile, elastic physicality, and excellent design choices all make this show a winner. The desert island routine with the last chocolate is so daggy and so delightful. Pure gold clowning. What a privilege to be in the room. Go see this show!!


Kate Gaul

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