When a white-clad young woman lights a set of candles at the opening of Lucy Porter's sleeper hit of the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, she ushers us into a very different age of enlightenment to the world history normally allows us privy to. Our hosts, after all, are Polyhymnia, Thalia and Clio, the three founder members of The Fair Intellectual Club, a female-led secret society operating in Edinburgh in the early eighteenth century as a counterpoint to the men only hellfire clubs and salons that proliferated at the time.
As our three fiercely intelligent graces engage with each other as much of their brand new world of history, philosophy and big ideas, their intellectual endeavours are only distracted by affairs of the heart, the wild new indulgence of chocolate and a looming matrimony which, as is so often the case, may break up the gang forever. Or not, as the case may be in what looks like a pre-cursor to the free university movement.
Revived by the Stellar Quines company with the original cast, Marilyn Imrie's production serves up Porter's charming treatise on self-determination with a froth that isn't afraid to show off its author's stand-up roots in a more formal setting. Samara MacLaren, Caroline Deyga and Jessica Hardwick hold court like Greek goddesses en route to a getting of wisdom that goes beyond mere book-learning. Their thoroughly modern ideas owe more to the sass of Girls than Sex and the City's terminally vacuity. As Polyhymnia blows out the candles a final time, the trio blaze a trail for both in a delightful meditation on truth, beauty and the power that comes from embracing both.
The Herald, February 23rd 2015