The self-publishing industry has flourished like a literary weed in recent years with the advent of Kindle; and as sex always sells it wasn’t long before the febrile fantasies of a million inky-fingered masturbators dribbled into the best-seller lists. Even the famously celibate Morrissey has had a go at some grot. As well as the celebrated/ lamented likes of 50 Shades and its ilk, the genre has already infiltrated comedy, inspiring the podcast genius of My Dad Wrote a Porno, also playing at the Fringe.
For those seeking even further smutty fun, then look no further than the work of the prolific Pamela DeMenthe; a wonderfully assured hour of character comedy that does for the sexy novel what Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place did for horror. It’s no exaggeration to say that it endures comparison with that neglected masterpiece favourably. Presented as a writing seminar that gives way into a public reading of her new novel, Pamela DeMenthe Presents: Sticky Digits uses fabulously lo-fi PowerPoint, and hilarious throwaway jokes that Steve Coogan in his pomp would be proud of, to sketch a great comedy monster. The little details are wonderful. There’s Partridge there for sure; a hint of Alan Bennett’s attention to detail; the incisiveness of Julia Davis minus the cruel edge.
The brainchild of Jenny May Morgan, DeMenthe is more than a sharp parody of erotic self-publishing. No matter how good the execution, that’s not exactly a difficult target. What Morgan does so well is establish an initially laughable character languishing under the yoke of their own delusion, and gradually peel away the layers of vanity and arrogance to reveal a vulnerable core. DeMenthe’s dreadful erotica is used beautifully to illustrate a lonely, frustrated woman with real pathos. This is a character that feels real, even within the heightened scenario, and has been written with infinite care and craft.
If one has to criticise, the reference early on in the hour to EL James is frankly a little unnecessary. It’s entirely obvious that her lumpen prose is a prime influence on the show, and evoking her spectre is just a little on the nose. There’s no need for blunt tautology when the rest of the writing is constructed with the delicacy of a mansion made of cards. That really is a small occlusion in a diamond though.
Morgan has obviously put everything into this creation. Even her promotional material has been created with the eye of an artisan. It’s shows like Sticky Digits that really bring a sense of discovery and wonder to the Fringe, and ensure that you keep taking punts on shows that show potential, or simply because a flier is thrust into your hand. It can’t be recommended highly enough.