There are over 2,000 shows at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but only one that is really worth seeing. Titania McGrath’s Mxnifesto is a tour de force of political oratory that is unlikely to be surpassed in my lifetime. I have seen every single performance, except for the nights I’ve had off (usually when my self-diagnosed PTSD has flared up), and its cultural significance is indisputable. I’d go so far as to suggest that the Edinburgh Fringe should cease after this current year, given that its purpose has now surely been fulfilled.
I was warned against writing this piece. Apparently, it is frowned upon to write a review for your own show. I consider this yet another attempt to silence women’s voices by the forces of heteronormative patriarchy. Why should I, as a proud independent woman, not proclaim my own worth? I will not bend the knee to swaggering males who seek to oppress me with their ‘opinions’. I will not seek permission before declaring my own genius. Mxnifesto is a fucking masterpiece and I am only awarding it five stars because to give it six it might seem arrogant.
As one walks into the auditorium at the Pleasance Above, a charming little theater space that emphasizes McGrath’s humility, there is a collective tremble of anticipation among the crowd. After all, McGrath has a reputation not only for her wisdom, but also for her righteous anger. Like Joan of Arc, she has successfully fought for justice against incredible odds. But unlike Joan of Arc, she didn’t make the stupid mistake of getting herself burned to death in the process.
As the show begins, dystopic images from the past few months appear on a screen: Boris Johnson’s election, Donald Trump’s ongoing presidency, Louis C.K. telling his ‘hate jokes’. McGrath emerges onto the stage, bathed in light like a majestic supernova. For the best part of an hour she delivers a searing lecture on the evils of capitalism, the scourge of whiteness, and how heterosexuality is now the most common form of homophobia. The audience are driven into a kind of rapture, as McGrath’s pearls of wisdom fall upon them like an unceasing deluge from the gods. Some are so transfixed that they forget to breathe. One woman gives birth in the second row; few even notice.
Mxnifesto is interspersed with some of McGrath’s most subversive slam poetry, including ‘White Privilege’, ‘A Vegan’s Lament’, and the immortal classic ‘My Angry Vagina’. By the end of the show, the audience are energized by a newfound desire to fight for social justice by whatever means necessary. Some immediately take to their smartphones to tweet out a new radical hashtag. Others vow to embrace ecosexuality and head to the nearest garden centre in search of a mate. A few simply go out into the street and start punching anyone they suspect of being a Nazi (38 percent of the Scottish population, if the Brexit vote is anything to go by).
Inevitably, white male critics have entirely misunderstood Mxnifesto. One described it as ‘venomous satire’, another as ‘iconic comedy’. Brian Logan in the Guardian inexplicably awarded the show just one star. This was a crushing blow for me, because Logan is one of my all-time favorite writers and theater practitioners. For over 15years he was co-director of the improvisation troupe Cartoon de Salvo, objectively acclaimed on their own website as ‘storytellers, shape-shifters and theater pioneers’. I mention Logan’s troupe by name only because I know how difficult it must be to maintain a reputation for being a pioneer when no one has actually heard of anything you’ve ever done.
To be fair, Logan was quite right to point out that the show was ‘abandoned midway by several audience members’. This was possibly because the people in question were fascists who couldn’t stand the heat emanating from McGrath’s truth bombs. More likely it was because on that particular evening there were technical difficulties which meant that the show started 20 minutes late and, as is typical at the Edinburgh Fringe, they had another one to see. Logan must have accidentally forgotten to mention this, which is entirely forgivable given that his prodigious mind is continually undulating with new ideas for radical shape-shifting improvisational theater. I’m just relieved that the Guardian closed their comments section under the review within two hours of posting it, so that he wouldn’t have to worry about being distracted from his important work by irksome ‘fact-checking’ trolls.
The potency of Mxnifesto cannot be denied. I continue to be astonished by the quality of McGrath’s poetry which exposes new layers of meaning with every reading, like the very wokest of onions. Although listed as ‘comedy’ in the fringe program due to an administrative error, be in no doubt that this is the most important live event since the Women’s March of 2016, where we all protested against the ongoing degradation of women by dressing up as giant vaginas.
See Mxnifesto and be healed.
Five stars out of five.