You Fancy Yourself

Icelandic-born Canadian performer returns to her roots – in Edinburgh

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You Fancy Yourself

In many ways, Maja Ardal represents the true international spirit of the Fringe. Originally from Iceland, she moved to Edinburgh at the age of four and, after completing a course at the RSAMD, relocated to Canada in the early 1970s to start her theatre career.

In 2009, Ardal is returning to Edinburgh for only the third time in 40 years with You Fancy Yourself, a semi-autobiographical account of her time as a pupil at Bruntsfield Primary School. The one-woman play details Ardal’s formative experiences of poor 1950s Edinburgh neighbourhoods, portrayed through a girl called Elsa. However, the project started life as a series of poems.

‘I came to Scotland and realised that there were kids who were really desolately poor and struggled,’ she says. ‘That sparked my writing poems. I strung them together and realised I had a story to tell about a little girl who has to learn what it is to be Scottish.’

While there are clear differences between Elsa’s fictional childhood and Ardal’s real one, there are distinct overlaps too. ‘I was one of those kids that wanted to look after everybody,’ Ardal explains. ‘I wanted to make the world perfect. Obviously, I fabricate and create a lot of fiction in You Fancy Yourself, but it’s true that I wanted to be as Scottish as I possibly could and it’s true that I couldn’t save some of my little friends from the bullies at school.’

And with a Dora Award for Outstanding Performance under her belt, Ardal’s return to Scotland in the year of Homecoming promises to be memorable. ‘It’s been a long time coming,’ Ardal explains, ‘and now, for me to come back to Edinburgh with this play, I feel like I’m awakening these ghosts. I’m enormously excited – I’m going to look up all my old boyfriends.’

St Georges West, 0844 477 1000, 8–30 Aug (not 10, 18, 24), 4.45pm, £10–£11 (£8-£9). Previews 6 & 7 Aug, £5.

You Fancy Yourself

  • 4 stars

Using her Icelandic imagination and the Glencoe Massacre as guides, young Elsa struggles to fit into 1950s Edinburgh.This one-woman show with 11 characters 'transforms harsh schoolyard life and childhood torment into a comedy juggernaut' (MooneyOnTheatre.com).

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