A show where one character tells the audience their life story may not sound like the most exciting entertainment to be found at the Fringe. However, Maya Levy’s PBH’s Free Fringe show takes as its subject the 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly, whose incredible experiences are perfectly suited to this kind of treatment. It’s not the first time Bly’s life has been used for fiction—she was also the protagonist of the 1981 film of the same name.
Levy’s Bly is an impressive heroine, clawing her way into journalism with determination and perseverance, and establishing herself as one of the most daring writers around. Levy portrays her clashes with an initially hostile industry amusingly, and the show focuses on her successes, which Nellie proudly announces. The word ‘adventures’ in the title is apt, as Nellie’s experiences are relentlessly impressive, notably her solo journey around the world in seventy-two days, and she immediately resigned from her newspaper when they refused her a raise. Rather than making Nellie blandly likeable, Levy shows her stubbornness and ambition.
The straightforwardness of the format actually feels quite refreshing, and Nellie’s tales are interspersed with some enjoyable comic songs. However, the show does begin to drag towards the end of the hour, and it would greatly benefit from being shortened to fifty minutes. It’s probably partly the heat of the room, but the audience feel slightly restless towards the end, although there is plenty of enthusiastic applause.
Nevertheless, with Levy’s obvious interest in and affection for her character, the show is an effective tribute to a fascinating woman.