Edinburgh Fringe 2010
A fast-paced one-woman show about the horrors of the audition process, from emotionally disturbed directors to Toilet Duck commercials. The subject matter may be well-worn, but Kiki Kendrick serves up her own bitter life experience with a sweet smile, sharp comic timing and some priceless rehearsal room anecdotes.
The comic potential of life in the lower echelons of the acting profession hasn’t exactly gone unnoticed. The clashing forces of self-expression and desperation, ego and indignity have entertained us from Withnail & I to Extras, via the newspaper columns of bit-part aficionado Michael Simkins. And you don’t need to have your blurry black and white headshot in Spotlight to know that directorial egos can be enormous, Toilet Duck commercials soul crushing, and certain thespian types just plain weird.
But if it’s still true, it’s still funny. And at the beginning of her one-woman show about the auditions she has variously suffered and screwed up over the years, Kiki Kendrick takes a moment to impress upon us the thoroughly autobiographical nature of what follows. If you recognize yourself, she adds, don’t consult a lawyer – consult your conscience.
Ultra-accessible and consistently funny, Next! is a 55-minute sprint of shame through a CV-that-wasn’t, taking in the times Kiki had to pole dance while dressed as a ‘bag lady’, walked in on the casting director taking a dump, and mistook Shoreditch Women’s Refuge for the Stepping Out workshop (one would imagine slightly fewer tap shoes, slightly more crack).
As a 40-year-old female actor, Kiki is, she points out, at that difficult point between aging sex kitten and Liz Smith. Even her first agent, before he dies of extreme age, tells her she’s best suited to roles you might crudely summarise as slightly stale tart.
A small video screen at the back keeps a running tally every time the agent is proved right, and announces each abrupt dismissal from the rehearsal room in the manner of the Jacques Brel song from which the show takes its title. Sound effects and lighting are simply and sparsely used but executed with pleasing accuracy – our complements in particular on the perfectly timed splash of the imaginary directorial turd. And in an intimate venue, spot-on facial expressions go a long way.
Kiki herself is your mate in an instant, confiding, exorcising, selflessly serving up her indignities for your entertainment, and providing gossipy insight into backstage life from Peter Kay to Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour (sort of). In a way it’s no bad thing that she fluffs the occasional line and seems less confident when directed to engage audience members one on one. For the show to be more than a series of situational mishaps, you need to glimpse her real-life vulnerability.
The originality of the ‘material’ does vary – we’ve heard actors joke about being asked to improvise ‘yellow liquid’ before – and we weren’t wholly convinced by the fairly clichéd emotional validation she includes to explain why she hasn’t just jacked the whole thing in.
But you watch Kiki’s real life show reel, which plays post curtain call and is just as cringey as you’ve been led to believe, with all the enjoyment of spotting an old friend on screen – and with some pride, too.