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  • Henry Longstaff

Breathless - Soho Theatre

The Fringe First winner arrives in Soho

The Cast of Crybabies promotional photograph


In 2015 hoarding was classified as its own unique mental illness rather than being a subset of OCD. It has the power to drastically affect an individual's existence, whether that be through financial woes, inability to maintain personal hygiene or as simple as never allowing someone into your home - which is exactly where we find Sophie.

It's the end of another date with lovely Jo, standing awkwardly outside Sophie’s apartment block, a little nervous because this whole dating women thing is still kind of new, but she can’t let her in, let her see. Sophie has been collecting clothes for years, clothes she’ll never wear or unpack, clothes that rotate around her overloaded bedroom, clothes that bring comfort and security, too good to give away. Equally aware and oblivious to her struggle, is there a way out for Sophie?

Grounded in her own hoarding experiences writer, Laura Horton’s script is fresh, honest and therapeutic in its tone - nicely balanced in building up Sophie’s story in a charming and accessible manner, shifting neatly between her initial bargain-hunting days, to moving back in with her parents and assorted dating attempts, right through to the gut punch realisation of her situation delivered by a front-page newspaper article adorned with her face. The waves of excitement and shame universal for anyone who has had past encounters with mental illness, allowing this text to have a wider impact despite its focus on a battle with hoarding.

As Sophie, Madeleine MacMahon is fabulous, serving up a knockout comedic performance paired with heartbreaking emotional intensity. She presents a charming, likeable Sophie ready to navigate the trials of moving to London in the hopes of writing, but as her love for clothes and deals increases the control of her surroundings weakens with a devastating impact on her social relationships. MacMahon is strikingly vulnerable as Sophie’s own words are replayed back to her when she recognises the seriousness of her illness, beautifully building on her work in Silent Uproar’s A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) - a stellar one-woman performance.

In the panicked moments, Sophie’s actions are nicely accented by gasping breath sound effects as she is gasping to stay afloat in her sea of trinkets and treasures, but it is the combination of Horton’s jam-packed script and MacMahon’s impressive performance that sets this production alight. They don’t overpromise or fantasise about an unachievable happy ending but instead prove that there is hope in the face of this illness. Horton’s lived experience enables this piece to be detailed, personal and acutely real, determined to leave audiences questioning how they can make space for the things most important in life.

Running until 18 Feb - Tickets

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