Maddie Rice’s one-woman tragi-comedy (and self-written debut play) Pickle Jar is a beautifully human gem of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Pickle Jar’s a one-woman tragi-comedy following a hilarious and clumsy teacher, played by Fleabag star Maddie Rice. In the play, which is also Rice’s debut as a writer, the protagonist struggles to keep her life together while dealing with energetic female students, Tinder dates and infuriating colleagues. As the story unravels and things spiral out of control a little, Rice takes us to some really dark places that I honestly wasn’t expecting. And yet it all fits perfectly and makes sense, mainly thanks to Rice’s clever writing and incredible storytelling ability.
Her story is one that I believe most female young adults can relate to (or at least recognise) – finding a partner in a world full of depressing dating apps and awful social media expectations, while trying to keep your anxiety levels down with meditation videos as you see other women doing a lot better than you. It is exhausting (trust me, I know).
Maddie Rice manages to effortlessly express all these feelings and problems in Pickle Jar, with her impeccable ability for direct address, and with physicality. Rice takes you to all these places, from a classroom to a nightclub to a corner shop, while introducing (read “interpreting”) all the people she meets along the way. The timeline jumps back and forth and the narrative follows whatever thought process the character’s experiencing, but you just follow her around without struggle. It is like a therapy session or a confession, but more fun and articulated.
The writing, just like the execution, is remarkable. Rice has managed to create a fully believable and well-rounded character. She’s the good girl, the responsible girl. Maybe a bit too responsible, maybe bordering on boring. But she is a good, kind and dedicated person who goes above and beyond for her female students. A good and kind person who has something really bad happen to her, and who struggles and makes mistakes. She is incredibly and beautifully human.
This year’s Edinburgh Fringe can fast get overwhelming, with people stopping you every five seconds to flyer for yet another Trump-related musical comedy. If you need to take a break, this is your show: one hour with one person on stage telling one story. I remember leaving the theatre feeling incredibly calm and satisfied. Pickle Jar is a treat you will absolutely not regret.