Superstar is what is says on the publicity label: “a sold-out Edinburgh Festival Fringe run” from Cold Play, Chris Martin’s younger sister Nicola Wren. Targeted at fringe audiences looking for easy-going humour from an actor with celebrity connections, Superstar works as a lively, witty, undemanding production.
The bit about being Chris Martin’s sister underlines and publicises the show, despite Nicola Wren trying for approbation on her own terms. She even changed her surname to Wren, an anglicised version of La Reine, explained in the show. However, as the publicity says, “how long can she fight to stay out of his shadow?”
Slow at first, overdoing the infantile at times, Wren’s energetic and nuanced performance gathers momentum. She ties in all sorts of endearing anecdotes about her childhood with her siblings. Diplomatically they are all equally dazzling, and she plays down the famous one with a raised eyebrow or a sideways glance. She dashes about on stage as her precocious eleven-year old self, showing how she was oblivious to Chris’s notoriety, confident that she was the “superstar” because she played Mole in Wind-in-the-Willows. The juxtaposition between the deluded child and her superstar brother and his superstar girlfriend, Gwyneth Paltrow, is priceless.
Meeting the sophisticated Ms Wren in person is a surprising contrast to this gauche schoolgirl persona. That’s a tribute to her acting. So is bearing your soul to audiences.
However, even though Superstar is all about Wren, it feels as if much is withheld. Her deeply Christian background is given a casual mention, as is her parent’s unexpected separation. Other than that there is nothing astonishing or revealing about her Devon childhood. Her stage persona is preoccupied with being noticed by family and audiences.
Nepotism is a double-edged sword for those with talent and a determination to shine like Nichola Wren. If they don’t play their advantage card, they might slip through the cracks like so many others without connections or a lucky break. Ms Wren has chosen to cash in. Why not? She deserves it.
26 November - 21 December
Southwark Playhouse 77-85 Newington Causeway London SE1 6BD