Leah loves fabric, whether that’s her special silk red dress, fine tweed or the material of her wedding dress. She works in a posh clothes shop, selling bespoke suits to rich men. This is how she meets her husband Ben, showing him a swatch book of all the best fabrics. His mother doesn’t trust her, but her family tells her not to ‘mess this one up’. Leah wryly observes that: ‘no-one is good enough for a son; but anyone is good enough for a daughter.’
Leah is a bit of a peculiar character because she’s a victim right from the start. She’s desperate for approval from everyone, babbling away at 100 miles per hour, thrilled that someone like Ben could be interested in someone like her. She’s just a teeny tiny little bit pathetic, a bit of a cliché of a woman with limited interests. When she gets all upset because Ben encourages her to watch a porno with him, it feels a little backwards, as though watching porn is somehow indicative of Ben’s predatory sexual nature. I wondered why she didn’t just tell him she’d rather not. It’s hard to completely blame him for a suggestion when she simply doesn’t communicate.
After this, Ben treats her appallingly on their wedding night and towards the end of the play she suffers terribly at the hands of another man whilst on a night out. Nancy Sullivan gives a firecracker of a performance, the most powerful I’ve seen so far at this year’s Fringe: subtly layered, vulnerable, sobbing and coming undone. However, this doesn’t smooth over the cracks in the script. In many ways Abi Zakarian has created a piece of writing that examines the expectations placed on women by society, but the representation of Leah sometimes feels a bit heavy-handed. If she had been more fleshed out and complex in the first half, the second half would have had more impact. Nevertheless Fabric is an ambitious exploration of an important topic and Sullivan’s performance alone makes it worth the trip.