by Laura Kressly
Over the latter part of the previous decade, a particular demographic raved about the relateability of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag on both stage and screen. This show voiced the sexually liberated, highly educated, white, middle-class millennial women who, though not lacking in representation, felt their plight was previously ignored. Brought up on the mantra that success is theirs to be had, neoliberal capitalism means they now angrily navigate a world that isn’t as easy as expected. Yet despite the difficulties of adulting, their privilege rightly invites critique. Liz Kingsman’s satire of one-woman shows does just that, along with taking aim at the tropes that many one-woman shows rely on. She eviscerates them wholeheartedly using comedy and metatheatre to hilarious effect.
Kingsman adopts – and consequently skewers – cute, messy girl aesthetic elements like vocal fry, poetic metaphors and lack of direction. She successfully manages to be both exaggerated and completely believable as the main character of the play-within-a-play here, a young woman who works in marketing for an environmental charity with a very comfortable life who can’t help but think there’s more out there. Her earnest performance as the actor staging this work and the show’s character are not just tonally spot-on for the piece, but foster way more laughs than ironic distance would in this context.
Blatant absurdities increasingly pepper a script that draws on aesthetics of failure and solo performance conventions; as the character unravels so does the show-within-a-show. It starts with the odd line here and there more resembling Mad Libs than sound mental health, and ends with a systematic breaking down of both the character and the show itself. All in all, it’s immensely clever but still engaging rather than alienating. As much is it’s very funny, there are inspiring lessons in the piece that theatre and those who make it would do well to reflect on.
One-Woman Show runs through 5 February.
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