Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“I’d like to prove to you that growing up being ignored and disliked by both of my parents has not affected me in any way. Come and see how I’m totally secure. Please? I’ll hurt myself if you don’t.” a new solo comedy show from Gina Jenkinson.
I am not sure Gina Jenkinson knows exactly what she has created here. I hope she realises how good it is, and how cleverly designed it is as well. This is a layered piece of theatre-cabaret-comedy. At the deepest layer is the memory of a painful childhood, coming to terms with less than ideal parents.
On top of that is a theatre format – a series of stories and a wish for catharsis on the stage – to tell herself she can do it and that is she is good. Well, she is very good.
Finally there are the tragicomic quips and one-liners, an interweaving of stand-up into the theatre. A few set piece routines and plenty of off-the-cuff, often dark, side commenting.
Unlike most standup, where you can hide behind a mic on a raised stage, Gina Jenkinson is in a black box theatre space with nothing between her and the audience. It adds to the informality, makes us all a bit nervous at the start, but the performer puts us all at immediate ease with a neat ruse for latecomers. We think it is going to be stand-up. It looks like it is in the wrong space for stand-up. You might think she was about to give a TED-talk – a flip chart stands behind her. But there is also a medical examination curtain and a table with GINA in flashing lights. Phew.
It is no easy feat to do stand up in a theatre space, at the same level of the audience but Jenkinson is more than up to the task. And then she departs from stand-up and leads us into storytelling, cabaret, song, play reading and even gameshow.
During the hour a few influences came to mind: Dawn French, Miranda Hart, Mrs Merton but there’s a huge dose of Gina herself: very dark comedy and her material will shock and offend some in parts – and also an ability to leap away from her script and deliver a hilarious, often uncomfortable one-liner almost under her breath.
She can be bitchy at will and the audience hooted with laughter, as did I. Some of those quips are so under her breath they are a missed opportunity for laughter and she needs to refine her vocal delivery here and there. All these gems need to reach the back row.
One way of dealing with your painful past is to turn it into a fringe show. Many do. Some succeed, some fail. Gina Jenkinson succeeds. This is clearly doing her good and that sense of enjoyment is infectious. Amid all the dark humour is something accessible and warm-hearted.
So, this is an hour of comedy variety, laced with cabaret and a bit of gameshow and music, all set in a theatre space.
Gina Jenkinson has some stories to tell and I’d like to have heard a few more. With plenty of audience participation and banter, the improv element keeps it all alive. It’s fresh, raw in places and works well in a theatre.
This show could head, developmentally in two directions. One would be into comedy clubs and turn into a stand-up comedy routine mixed with cabaret. Or it could head more into a theatre piece, rooted in storytelling, with the fourth wall definitely down. Or, perhaps, there’s a third place too. It could become her own unashamed, new mix of all the styles. If she takes that route, it won’t work in a traditional comedy club. This felt like the right home for it, as it stands.
Desperately Seeking Attention s a hard to pin down, hugely enjoyable, occasionally touching solo comedy hour, delivered extremely well by Gina Jenkinson. In theatre spaces, laughter can be more muted than a comedy club. People tend to snigger more. On this evening, there was plenty of snorting. Jenkinson leaps on it: “We’ve got two snorters in … lovely! Don’t hold back!”
And we didn’t. I didn’t. A hidden evening comedy gem at Greenside. Highly recommended.