Edinburgh Fringe 2017
“A character comedy carousel from chameleon woman-host LadyFace, AKA Lucy Farrett. Take a journey through her multi-faced person world!”
Entering the Baillee Room, there’s a pulsating pre-show track playing – and in the corner is a girl casually eating crisps and occasionally sipping from a sports bottle. She’s wearing a cardboard box on her head with the word “LadyFace” and purple lips drawn on in crayon or felt tip. It’s the first of many delightfully naff lo-fi props and costumes that Lucy Farrett uses to switch between the characters that populate her highly entertaining solo show. Bin bag dresses and carrier bag hats are deployed with dexterous energy from their temporary storage spaces atop a clothes airer. LadyFace also wears a white leotard and tutu, white tights, silver ankle boots – the latter’s raison d’être becomes apparent later. No spoilers.
“LadyFace” is a multiple character-driven solo sketch show, written and performed by Farrett with buckets of energy, good focus and a dollop of originality, a rare commodity in comedy these days. She’s unafraid to push the envelope, sometimes to the point of discomfort with some of the more loathsome characters. That trait reminded me of Ben Jonson’s view of the function of comedy, which I paraphrase slightly – you laugh so much that the tears leave a little salt “wherewith he’ll rub your cheeks till (red with laughter), they shall look fresh a week after”. No finger-pointing or overt moralising here, you can take what you find, but the work has an edge which is often missing in contemporary comedy. The ideas that drive the show are admirably left-field, a bit skewed, a touch awkward, but the show’s real strength is Farrett’s variation in character – from innocent clown to full-on buffoon – there’s much to commend in the parade of modern day deadly sins that are revealed to us – we can all enjoy the people who are flawed because we’re not one of them until we occasionally glimpse ourselves in the mirror. These are rich portraits, developed with love and attention to detail.
There are moments where Farrett channels a bit of Catherine Tate’s directness, or Victoria Wood’s wide-eyed gormlessness but she is also enjoying playing in the deliciously dangerous territory of cold-eyed satire. “Horsey”, one of her creations, is a savage brat whose steed is called George Osborne “after our favourite Chancellor of the Exchex”. She sneers at the world with her mother from the front seat of the Land Rover – her osmotic absorption of parental mores is both hilarious and terrifying.
Softer touches are delivered by Farrett’s reinvention of Audrey Hepburn, merging YouTube and self-help without any of her Dutch “gobbledegoop”. Another girl embarks on a series of doomed romances, but ever-optimistic, keeps going until she finds an unexpected and illuminating happiness. My particular favourite, Anne Cotton, is one of the Medieval era’s unfortunates, but she’s kind enough to write a poem about each of the potentially fatal diseases she’s contracted – and happy to share. Each high-energy transition feels like Farrett has dumped herself in the shit, just to make life that bit more interesting.
The rapid-fire format that links each tasty morsel on Farrett’s comedy buffet means the hour passes in a wink. She should take great heart from this impressive early offering – there is clearly much promise – and ambition – here. If there are only seven jokes, Farrett has covered them all and I bet she’s busily trying to uncover the eighth. I’m already looking forward to what comes next.