Review: Manic (Calm Down, Dear Festival)

Stopping off for one performance at Camden People’s Theatre, halfway through its tour, Raina Greifer’s one-person show Manic comes with plenty of content warnings, some clever puppetry, and a Google Slides presentation.

This is a tale of one journey through six years of bad sex and no orgasms; of ghosting, assault, and low self-esteem. It is about bathroom fumbles and taking second best – at one point, we are left to read one disturbing account on screen while the performer exits the space.

As Griefer introduces her ‘partners’ Ash (a cheese string), Graham (a balloon) and Dylan (a denim jacket topped with a decorated box), we hear about how their encounters developed and how sexism and misogyny can cause women to feel worthless and invisible.

The script is one of vague poetry and frank confessions, as Griefer makes regular eye contact with the audience and holds little back. When she’s vulnerable, a jacket offers protection; otherwise, bras and pants are the garb of choice.

Moments of reflection tease against outbreaks of violence against the partners brought to the stage like panellists in a Jerry Springer show. “Why did you sleep with me?” and “You need to say sorry.” are the moments of engagement that turn to anger at being used.

Ptomotional image for Manic

When we consider consent and violation, these are often grey areas where we question our own actions and motives: Manic explores this in an accessible and intriguing way.

I felt the slides were a little text heavy at times, and as they were not all read out, they missed the chance to be fully inclusive. As Griefer is such an open and positive performer, her strength is definitely in her personal connection with audience and story.

However, the wordplay was good, and Manic, for all its seriousness and shock, is often very funny, with moments of audience participation which leave us all feeling that, like Raina, we are OK.

Manic played as part of the Calm Down, Dear festival, on 6 Jun. For the remaining dates on the tour, check out Raina Greifer’s Linktree.

You can also read my interview with Greifer, which ran prior to the Brighton Fringe run of Manic.