Note: This review is from the 2019 Fringe

Rachel Mars is a writer, performer, comedian and live artist. They are presenting Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters to a near sell-out audience at Summerhall. To the back of the stage we see projections of text messages from dating and messaging apps, while to the side of the stage is a slide projector. This old technology projects names of famous people from history and Mars reads out letters they have written to their lovers. Throughout the show the performer cuts back and forth from old letters and modern sexts. The contrast is hilarious, telling and at times thoughtful.

The performance begins with a reading of a letter by Irish writer James Joyce to his lover Nora Barnacle. This is a hilarious opening to the show as the letter is explicit, graphic and utterly ridiculous. This sets a joyful tone and instantly gets the audience on the performer’s side. Other letters that are read out include masterworks by Charles Bukowski, Frida Kahlo, Marcel Proust and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Each letter reveals a side of the sender that people may not be familiar with. The letters which feel more poignant and personal are the correspondence from queer people. Here the sexuality is coded and written in a personal and restrained manner. An example is a letter from lesbian writer of The Well of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall. Her words seem less forceful and performative when compared to the boastful words of Joyce, Bukowski and Mozart.

However, these letters are still in stark contrast to the blatant and overtly sexual messages that are received via dating apps. Where Gertrude Stein uses considered language when corresponding with her lover, the modern text message examples that we see are short, impersonal and sometimes don’t even make sense.

At times Mars takes the microphone from the stand and walks to the side of the stage. Here they give an insight into their past and the different relationships they have had with different people. This is when Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters is actually at its most powerful and engaging. The conclusion gives a voice to a female letter recipient, whose correspondence has gone missing. Here we get to hear a strong female sex-positive voice in a powerful and funny conclusion.