Brighton Fringe 2019
Delightful, sexy and sassy, politically relevant, and very refreshing. I can’t remember when I last saw a work that delighted and entertained in this way.
As the follow-up to their hilarious and award-winning 2017 show ‘Enter the Dragons’, this sold -out show from A&E Comedy generated an air of excitement before it even began. The queue buzzed with anticipation as we were led into the theatre to a soundtrack of popular and cheesy witchy songs beginning with ‘Devil Woman’ by Cliff Richard and progressing later to the ‘Witch Queen of New Orleans’ and even the theme tune from ‘Bewitched’!
As the lights dimmed, a black hooded figure shrouded in mist appeared in front of a giant fairy tale story book, and proceeded to introduce the show in a pantomime baddie – style manner. We were catapulted straight into uproarious laughter as the figure announced that it was a ‘one woman show with a twist’ – just as a second figure appeared – with perfect comic timing. We loved the interaction between these two straight away, like you do with the relationship between Morecambe and Wise, or French and Saunders.
The comedy horror continued as the pages of the book were turned and stories were told. The first story featured a little demon (one of many fabulous puppets designed by Annie Brooks) who sounded endearingly like Badger from ‘Bodger and Badger’, but filthier. The second story was set in a castle – ‘Roy Castle’! – and was spoken in verse/rhyme. And as the journey continued, as we were led ever deeper into the dark mysterious woods via stories populated by sex robots, bottomless magicians, sexy suggestive saw playing and crones with vajazzled vaginas. The characters we met along the way were costumed brilliantly by Holly Murray (who also designed the set) culminating in the most hilarious bodysuit design I have ever seen!
What was really outstanding about this show is that the two writer-performers (Emma Edwards and Abigail Dooley) were doing stuff that we just don’t usually see ‘older’ women doing. Risqué humour, slapstick, nudity, and bad language, but most of all showing us subtler observed behaviours that we realise we’ve only really seen men do before – for instance a particular smarmy, cocky way of presenting a joke or magic trick (including the nuances of body language), and it comes as quite a shock to realise that this is the case. Naked vaginas? As they point out, there is a well known fringe theatre show involving naked penises, but are vaginas actually funny? Or can they be? This work is groundbreaking and addresses challenging issues of female sexuality and empowerment, yet the skill of the performers somehow makes it seem tasteful at the same time -the message and meaning creeps up on you unawares, as it might do in a fairy tale, not awkward at all. And yet this is taboo breaking work, especially coming from women channelling the crone archetype with grey wig and sagging breasts, but with added grey merkin, making fun of of pneumatic false breasts and dyed hair. There’s no feeling of them trying too hard to make a point, it’s not embarrassing, not tasteless, they’re not forcing it on you – just funny, gentle, yet hard hitting at the same time. This is genuinely funny comedy made by and appreciated by mature women (as well as the men in the audience), a group whose appetite for good quality and relevant comedy work is not met by the material presented by the usual popular fringe comedy shows. Featuring two performers at the top of their game, and directed by Cal McCrystal, it was delightful, sexy and sassy, politically relevant, and very refreshing. I can’t remember when I last saw a work that delighted and entertained in this way.