Where to begin with a play like One Woman Show? Liz Kingsman’s creation – originally opening at the Soho Theatre last year, and subsequently a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, earning rave reviews – has now opened on London’s West End and it’s quite unlike anything we’ve seen. It’s high concept stuff – Liz is on-stage as the writer, knowingly creating a performance about a character who works in marketing at the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust.
Not content with being a parody of the show-within-a-show format, it takes things one step further: the premise is that this performance is also being filmed for a TV commissioner. It’s not, and Liz knows that, although she plays along with the camera malfunctions and mic pack mishaps for the most part, and the accompanying programme jokes that it might become a major TV series. Confused? Pay attention.
It demands a lot from its audience – keeping track of exactly what we’re watching with this show-within-a-show (within-a-TV-pilot) requires complete concentration, as do the jokes, which usually have multiple punchlines per sentence and mostly have a matter-of-fact, deadpan delivery. Even within the preposterous concept, the story itself is not naturalistic in the slightest – the narrative arc of our heroine is pretty out there. Liz takes us on a journey and we have to suspend our disbelief and go with her – because the pay off is absolutely worth it.
There is indeed a plot, and in this brief, one-act performance, we’re introduced to Liz’s flatmate, colleagues and love interests (she plays all the parts), as she navigates London as a single woman approaching 30. While we had fun with the story, what this play does best is poke fun at theatre itself – it all becomes brilliantly meta, with our protagonist breaking the fourth wall to question the point of having props which can’t be seen from the most expensive seats, or technical problems deliberately intruding on poignant speeches.
One Woman Show is absolutely sublime theatre – a 70-minute rollercoaster that took us on the most unexpected of rides. It’s a show that oscillates between the relatably mundane and the completely absurd, with jokes that range from some of the smartest we’ve ever heard to outrageously daft. Few plays translate as well as this one does from the Fringe to the West End – it’s easily the funniest show in town right now, and possibly the funniest show of the year, too. Grab a ticket while you can!
GAY TIMES gives One Woman Show – 5/5
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