Edinburgh Fringe: Her story, Liz Lea in Red

Dance Base, Edinburgh
August 19, 2022


Red is different, one of those extraordinary works that defies categorisation. A bit of dance, a bit of theatre, a lot that’s personal. As Liz Lea takes us through her journey, she’s honest, self-deprecating, and often very funny, but there are moments that are hugely poignant too. It makes for a totally engrossing hour.

It’s not without its philosophical moments too. She thought she could have it all, we are told. But if you want to have it all, you must give it all; and if you give it all, you must be prepared to lose it all. Strikes me there’s a lot of truth in that.

Lea takes us back to when she was 14, when one of her favourite possessions was a red ballet skirt; and an exam skirt at that. Then through the ups and downs of life but especially and very openly through her rectovaginal endometriosis and recovery. Her matter-of-factness about it, including the many procedures she went through, hits you between the eyes. It is very confronting.

Liz Lea in Red
Photo Lorna Sim

But even in the darkest times, what comes through is a determination and a spirit, and more often than not, a sheer bloody mindedness that she will not be beaten. You suspect that’s what got her through as much as the doctors. As she says towards the ends, “My uterus is a bit like my high-heel collection; slightly out of date but I’m not prepared to get rid of it yet.”

The dance numbers are mostly dynamic and ooze the same positivity as the rest of the show. There’s a stunning red feather showgirl number, another to ‘Lady in Red’ (what else?) by Chris Rea, and a rather more poignant one that sees her joined by six dancers in black from PRIME, first semi-professional dance company for the over 60s, who helped illustrate living and managing pain, although the latter works less well.

Other accompaniment include the Act III aria from Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, ‘Paint It Black’ by the Rolling Stones, original music by Alexander Hunter and more.

And if all that wasn’t enough, Arianna Bosi’s backing film of her walking slowly by the sea is beautifully shot too.

Red ends beautifully. In high-heels, hair back and looking very glamourous, Lea’s limbs slowly awaken. It’s almost as though she’s finding them once more. Her dance very much indicates hope for the future. The lady is not done yet!

Red is at Dance Base, Edinburgh to August 28, 2022. Click here for tickets.