Brighton Fringe 2017
Directed by award-winning Scott Le Crass and starring Laura Curnick at Sweet Dukebox, Caroline Byrne’s Blocked explores the downward spiral of a stand-up whose failure to conceive blocks her in every way imaginable. Lighting here is crucial, it becomes part of the act: bright, garish red and blackout, where some of the words come from. A Pure Fluke Theatre production it’s on till May 24th.
It’s as if Billie Piper’s Yerma does stand-up. Caroline Byrne’s Blocked reveals a writer whose images stamp a scream-out-loud theatre drawn into an arc of devastation. Directed by award-winning Scott Le Crass at Sweet Dukebox and starring Laura Curnick, Blocked explores the downward spiral of a stand-up whose failure to conceive blocks her in every way imaginable. Lighting here is crucial, it becomes part of the act: bright, garish red and blackout, where some of the words come from. A Pure Fluke Theatre production, it’s a show you should see for outstanding writing and heart-in-mouth performance.
Kate Parfitt Queen of Mean takes to Brighton Dome recycling her joke about parking and her ambivalence about svelte women and bouncing babies, soon darkening not just because they’re uproarious but because of what they roar about her. This is a Groundhog Day revisiting an act in three stages where Parfitt engages with her audience ‘hands up those who have babies.’
She tells us how you need to deploy cunning to hide your inner woman psycho moment as you divest your man of his friends. Curnick’s wild mimicry extends too to a gallimaufry of accents: various supermothers, from Hampstead to Brisbane with all those organic solutions brushed with holistic goo. ‘I make my own pasta, yah, isn’t it mad?’
So the Dome hears of Parfitt’s contempt for those who fear accelerating cars will detach baby’s retinas, when their cartilage renders them so indestructible they could bounce off the dash and be turned into black box recorders. And what’s to congratulate in women receiving a bouquet of sperm? Pregnancy, giving birth, it’s like a golf umbrella opening up in your vagina.
That first car joke gets recycled in her next Brighton Gig at the Centre, because darling Tone her manager and husband demands it stays in, a structural cantus firmus Parfitt would doubtless pun on (I can hear her). We’re treated to cracks as she speaks directly to Tone either projecting back or into the phone. And then there’s the baby monitor you can buy to torment mothers or even babies tuning into their frequencies.
This is where it unravels, huge rows break out between her and Tone as Parfitt overreaches her appeal and her self-worth as well as her own power. In demotic language the Centre audience is treated to loud-muttered commands for sex because she’s at a fertile apogee. Then there’s the IVF people who take off £25,000 to revivify Parfitt’s ‘wrinkled’ eggs and ovaries and then turn on her. What happens next with Tone is devastating.
Stand-up meltdown? A very different Parfitt finally makes it to a non-paying Oldham audience; dressed and looking different, she swears that joke will be its last outing Then we revisit a slowed-down sudden baring of everything psychic. Everything’s repeated to punctuate how Parfitt’s world shears off from itself, so each section rehearses th end, Proleptic and inevitable, Greek in fact. The end is something you’ll have to see. It’s as if Parfitt’s world shudders, brushed with a passing Cassandra. Curnick inhabits a performer’s meltdown from a technique and emotional agency as strong as… a recording black box. Byrne’s emphatically a writer to watch out for. Superb theatre.