So, for some people, Carrie Fisher is known only as one thing: Princess Leia from Star Wars. Now, don’t be embarrassed: I only also knew her as the batshit ex-fiancée from The Blues Brothers and the author of a book (Surrender the Pink) I once bought second-hand because the first paragraph was so great but forgot to actually read and then sold at a market stall last month (stupid past self.) Luckily for those of us with little knowledge of Fisher’s wider work (script doctor, actress-in-other-flicks, screenwriter, mother, comedian, Pez dispenser) she knows this all too well and doesn’t mind catering to those of us with a narrow view of the most famous woman to ever be chained half-naked to a giant earthworm. In her one-woman stage show, Wishful Drinking, she tells the audience everything they wanted to know—and, of course, much more than they wanted to know, too. Seriously, when she said the word “pussy” I felt the collective blush of the entire audience.
Carrie Fisher is funny. Hilarious. Hysterical. She has an excellent turn of phrase, she quips like it’s an Olympic sport, and charmed the pants off everyone in the Athenaeum Theatre. And, after she opens the show singing on the stage (set like a comfortable living room dotted with R2D2 plush toys, photographs, quirky decorations and a giant projector screen) she flings glitter all over the audience and then declares we’re going back to 1956, when she was born to two of Hollywood’s sweethearts: singer Eddie Fisher (who passed away just a month ago, and was renowned for “Oh My Papa”, or, in her own favourite lyrical mashup, “Oh My Faux Pas”) and actress Debbie Reynolds (on her mother’s beauty: “She looked like a Christmas morning.”) To explain the dramatic tentacles of Hollywood relationships after her parents’ divorce, a blackboard drops from the ceiling with a complicated bunch of pictures that try to decipher if Carrie’s own daughter, Billie, is in any way related to her new flame, who happens to be Elizabeth Taylor’s grandson. Eddie Fisher did marry Ms. Taylor, briefly, but after much laughter and pointing at the board with a stick, she establishes that they are related only “by scandal!” Hollywood really is just as deliciously trashy as you’d imagine, and though it must have hurt Carrie and her brother Todd as children to watch the train wrecks that were marriage after marriage of their parents, she does now find it all funny and made it seem like the height of farce for her audience.
There is so much more to Carrie than her parents’ scandals and even more than Star Wars (gasp, I know!) She talks about celebrity, how her likeness is owned by one George Lucas, her relationships, and, of course, her bipolar diagnosis and addictions. She didn’t shy away from any topics, and her discussion of her mental state was frank and admirable, and her explanation of what bipolar is for her led to quite a moving time in the show as everyone went utterly quiet and was swept up in her heartbreaking description towards the end of the show, including how electroconvulsive therapy affects her memory.
And what memories she has, and she will floor you with her perspective and devastating one-liners. Her marriage to Paul Simon (who, when I was four, wrote the first song I ever loved, “You Can Call Me Al”) started off with them feeling like they were the only two people who understood each other but at the end, “things were getting worse faster than we could lower our standards.” That relationship was followed by one with Bryan Lourd, with whom she had her daughter “[who was] dragged out of me like I was a burning building”, and who also accused her of turning him gay due to her use of codeine. Then there was her clothes in Star Wars—on donning the white dress for the set, George told her she couldn’t wear a bra. When Carrie asked why, George replied: “There’s no underwear in space.” And her parents, from her widow-stealing father to her mother, who suggested Carrie carry Debbie’s new husband’s baby so that it would have “great eyes”. All this, interjected with political jokes and constant references to her mental state—it’s really a completely wonderful show. Carrie is charming, devastating, and honest, and if you’re in her line of sight, you might get dragged on stage, kissed on the cheek, and made to hit on the cement life-sized sex doll of Princess Leia. (And before you ask, no, I wasn’t, we were seated upstairs.)
In summary: Exceeds Expectations—we scored some very lucky free passes and I hadn’t really known what to expect, but it was a blast. There’s an intermission, so you’ll have the opportunity to go and cash in some shares to afford a bottle of water and a packet of potato chips if you need half-time sustenance.