Rose McGowan: Planet 9 review: 'She can hold a note – but not always the right one'

Rose McGowan: Planet 9 review: 'She can hold a note – but not always the right one'

Assembly Hall, Edinburgh
The #MeToo activist made herself a refuge, where orbs shimmer and we can be our best selves. What a pity she spends this frustrating show wafting around like a refugee from 1970s sci-fi

2 / 5 stars 2 out of 5 stars.
‘Clearly a meaningful project for her’ ... Rose McGowan in Planet 9 at the Edinburgh festival.
‘Clearly a meaningful project for her’ ... Rose McGowan in Planet 9 at the Edinburgh festival. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

You can understand why Rose McGowan might want to leave this planet behind her. She grew up in and then fled a cult, fell into the arms of another cult (as she describes Hollywood), survived sexual assault and endured the abuse that came with leading the #MeToo campaign against it. Small wonder she created a place to take refuge: Planet 9, where orbs shimmer and we’re all free to become our best and most beautiful selves. But on the basis of her new show, one doubts whether many will come along for the ride.

The show and album that take us there were created alongside her memoir, Brave. The latter gave vent to her anger; the former is more optimistic. “We don’t have to be so earthbound in our thinking,” McGowan tells us, barefoot and stately in a white Grecian robe. This “visuals, spoken word and singing” show features tracks from her album with video she has made herself, spliced into a sermon about escaping our psychological shackles and realising our potential to be free. “Not to sound like a Californian hippy”, she says at one point. That is exactly how she sounds.

Which isn’t a problem in itself: Californian hippies have plenty to teach us. But McGowan seldom escapes their most cliched expressions. “Take my hand / Sail in air / On solar flares,” she speak-sings to ambient electronica, while blissed-out visuals pulse and swirl onscreen. Her voice is strong but wayward: she can hold a note, but it doesn’t always sound like the right one.

Quick guide

Edinburgh festival 2019: the shows we recommend

Afternoon shows

#HonestAmy
Pleasance Dome, 12pm, until 26 August. Read the review.

Sea Sick
Canada Hub @ Kings Hall, 12.30pm, until 25 August

Algorithms
Pleasance Courtyard, 12.45pm, until 26 August

F Off
Underbelly Cowgate, 12.50pm, until 25 August. Read the review.

Fishbowl
Pleasance Courtyard, 1pm, until 26 August. Read the review

The Accident Did Not Take Place
Pleasance Courtyard, 1pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Vigil
Summerhall, 1pm, until 25 August.

Beach Body Ready
Pleasance Courtyard, 1.10pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Collapsible
Assembly Roxy, 1.20pm, until 25 August. Read the review

For All I Care
Summerhall, 1.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

I’ll Take You to Mrs Cole!
Pleasance Courtyard 1.45pm until 26 August

Art Heist
Underbelly, 1.55pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Like Animals
Summerhall, 2.15pm, until 25 August

The Happiness Project
Army @ the Fringe, 2.20pm, until 25 August

Beat
Pleasance Dome, 2pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Spray
Assembly Roxy, 2.35pm, until 26 August

Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck
The Stand’s New Town theatre, 2.50pm, until 25 August

Anguis
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3pm, until 26 August. Read the review

All of Me
Summerhall, 3.10pm, until 25 August. Read the review

George Fouracres
Pleasance Courtyard, 3.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

If You’re Feeling Sinister
Gilded Balloon, 3.45pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Scottee
Assembly Roxy, 4.05pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Lola and Jo
Assembly George Square, 4.15pm, until 25 August

First Time
Summerhall, 4.15pm, until 25 August

The Incident Room
Pleasance Courtyard, 4.30pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Typical
Pleasance Courtyard, 4.30pm, until 25 August

Everything I Do
Summerhall, 4.30pm, until 25 August

The Last of the Pelican Daughters
Pleasance Courtyard, 4.40pm, until 25 August. Read the review

The Chosen
Dance Base, 5pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Daniel Kitson
Stand Comedy Club, 5pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Scream Phone
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, 5pm, until 26 August

Four Woke Baes
Underbelly Cowgate, 5.05pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Parakeet
Roundabout @ Summerhall, 5.05pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Superstar
Underbelly Cowgate, 5.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Janine Harouni
Pleasance Courtyard, 5.45pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Daddy Drag
Summerhall, 5.45pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Snare
Pleasance Courtyard, 6pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Tom Parry - “Parryoke!”
Pleasance Courtyard, 6pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Evening shows

Who Cares
Summerhall, 6.20pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Tom Rosenthal
Pleasance Courtyard, 6.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Pops
Assembly Roxy, 6.35pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Toyko Rose
Underbelly, 6.55pm, until 25 August

Kai Samra
Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Sophie Duker
Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Jack Rooke
Assembly George Square Gardens, 7.30pm, until 24 August. Read the review

The Afflicted
Summerhall, 7.30pm, until 25 August

The Wild Unfeeling World
Pleasance Courtyard, 7.30pm, until 25 August

John Robins
Pleasance Courtyard, 7.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Zoë Coombs Marr
Monkey Barrel Comedy, 7.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Lucy McCormick
Pleasance Courtyard, 8pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Traumboy
Summerhall, 8.10pm, until 25 August. Read the review

London Hughes
Pleasance Courtyard, 8.15pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Huge Davies
Pleasance Courtyard, 8.15pm, until 25 August

Josie Long
Stand Comedy Club, 8.20pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Camille O’Sullivan Sings Cave
Pleasance Courtyard, 9.15pm, until 25 August

Simon Brodkin
Pleasance Courtyard, 9.30pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Musik
Assembly Rooms, 9.40pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Courtney Pauroso
Underbelly Cowgate, 9.40pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Jamie Loftus
Pleasance Courtyard, 10.45pm, until 26 August

Catherine Cohen
Pleasance Courtyard, 10.45pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Diane Chorley
Assembly, 11.00pm, until 25 August

Spank!
Underbelly Cowgate, 11.55pm, until 25 August

It’s frustrating, because I’d guess the real McGowan, the one she relaxes into when she’s not being her best, astral self, is more entertaining company. We get fleeting glimpses: the odd sardonic laugh or frank aside. More often – wafting around like a refugee from 1970s sci-fi – she’s stilted: words blandly intoned, hands curiously rigid like the astral winds changed direction while she was doing yoga.

This is clearly a meaningful project for her, one that has helped her survive, she says, the last three traumatic years. Good luck to her. But audiences might prefer more earthly pleasures.