Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Cheekykita – the surreal creation of Sonja Quita Doubleday – returns to Edinburgh with in-your-face insanity.
When I saw Cheekykita’s show ‘Tittitutar Town’ last year, I almost passed out through laughing. It was the silliest and funniest thing I had ever seen. I could hardly breathe I was in hysterics so much. And this is the problem. I have placed her on the top of the highest pedestal and there is nowhere better to go from that spot. I had put such high hopes on this year’s act that it wasn’t fair on her, or reasonable to expect it to be the same. I think a little piece of me knew that.
The organisation at The Laughing Horse was a bit haphazard. One usher would tell the queue one thing, and another would change that. In the end, we were sent into the wrong room where a show was in mid-performance and we just hung around on a stairwell until someone came and got us.
The performance took place in a tiny room. There was a huge fan in there which worked brilliantly but was extremely noisy. The set-up was very Heath-Robinson. A black sheet seemed to have been pinned across a wall to act as a stage area. It was like going into someone’s bedroom to see a show, but not with any quirky charm.
This year’s show was a curate’s egg. She has retained some of the elements that made last year’s show so incredibly funny – the ridiculous frozen grins, the gurns, the stupid costumes – all elements of clowning that she does superbly. She has also kept in her trademark of going offstage and cursing loudly as she can’t see what she’s doing. All these things are what make Cheekykita an extremely funny and very silly person. But there wasn’t enough of it this time. When she’s spending half the show in her regular clothes talking like her characters do, she sometimes comes across as quite angry and even a little threatening. I found charm in her childish routines (including the infantile swearing) but it’s not quite the same in a stripey top as it is dressed as a shark – it becomes more a rant than a routine. Only at times did I find myself squealing with laughter. It starts off well. She enters in a duvet cover and does a quilt dance. Utterly pointless, in your face and unoffensive, but she links a lot of the ‘story’ this year as herself (or as her character) and I wanted more of last year’s costumes, faux mistakes and muttering. I loved the idea of putting brussel sprouts in Ferrero Rocher and then going off on a quest to find a missing one, only to give up on the whole thing at an arbitrary point later in the show. However, the whole routine of a talking anus would have a place in some acts but I just found it a little sordid here.
As last time, I made notes throughout that mean nothing to me now: ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, ‘Lobster on Death Row’, ‘Ghost fly’, ‘Gollum’… maybe just putting these words up speaks for itself.
We do get one or two old favourites returning – her Cornish spider is back, which sounds not at all Cornish but more like an alien Jane Horrocks (and she does the best gargling voice you’ll ever hear). There’s also the hilarity of getting the audience to cover their eyes as she’s goes through them all to scare them. I miss her Ghost Girl, though.
There’s also a silly little section when she’s on her travels where she hands out garden centre dragonflys and small glow sticks to every member of the audience for an ‘Avatar’ moment. It didn’t really link to anything, but I would have been disappointed if it had. Near the end, Cheekykita gets fox and badger glovepuppets on some sort of nonchalent date and, like last time, somehow manages to get two of the audience up in cheap mouse and rabbit headpieces to dance at a party (both of whom were excellent, I have to say). She noted they had been the best of the run.
In summation, there is no one I’m aware of in the field who is doing quite what Cheekykita does, and for that alone you really should see her. This time, though, for me things fell short of the mark as often as they hit it. Her gift is in the pointlessness of what she does mixed with her clowning in her ridiculous costumes and her grumbling about everything going wrong. There is still plenty of mileage to be had out of this and it seems a slightly retrograde step to work some kind of connection between what she does and especially to do so much of the act as Cheekykita and not as the characters she plays from her… erm… character. It’s also charming when things do actually go wrong for real and she laughs through them.
I don’t think this venue helped; she is better in a black box with more space to give vent to her physical comedy. I still look forward to what she has to present next time.