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Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Jawbone of an Ass

Mortimer Olive Productions

Genre: Comedy, Drama


Hill Street Theatre


Low Down

Mortimer Olive Productions presents “Jawbone of an Ass” by Nan Schmid, the bizarre comical twisted tale of Paige Marie (played by Schmid): A Midwestern, hardcore, Bible thumping Christian whose husband Roy has gone missing. She is offered support by her supposed friend, Cora Ann, also a religious woman, but one who clearly has issues. They seek support from the visiting spiritual counsellor, Dr Admore, who advises Paige Marie that the way to find Roy is to enter a Pillsbury baking competition. Whilst trying to solve the mystery of Roy’s disappearance several important discoveries and confessions are made that turn the two women against each other and reveal some startling home truths.


Cora Ann bursts into Paige Marie’s kitchen and it’s clear they have a disingenuous relationship. They dance around each others’ insincere comments, but Cora Ann is clearly lusting after the missing Roy and Paige Marie doesn’t trust her alleged friend. Their encounter with Dr Admore becomes fraught, particularly when it’s revealed that Roy had a penchant for relieving his sexual tension in public, and he is catapulted into Paige Marie’s world. Through hypnotism Paige Marie reveals she is inhibited around men, Admore then opts to dress in drag so that she feels less threatened. Food plays a major part in their lives and Cora Ann jealously tries to outdo Paige Marie by winning a baking competition with her tuna fish pie. This is a direct challenge to Paige Marie who believes she is the more proficient cook. Madcap mayhem ensues that includes the Dr and Cora Ann’s bungled burglary attempt to find Paige Marie’s intended recipe ingredients and information that may lead to Roy’s whereabouts. Eventually the drama comes to a head and there is a massive showdown that leads to Roy, an arrest, electrocution and the return of a long lost friend.

This is a sharp piece of theatre that takes a humorous dig at organised religion and middle class suburban housewives. The women are uproariously funny and each sentence they utter is accompanied by the brainwashed repeating of religious phrases just as an answering congregation would, as if God is watching them at all times. This is punctuated each time by the distant bleating of the flock. The word play is rapid and saucy with Cora Ann, played by the superbly funny Liza Coyle, adding orgasmic shudders to the rapier wit by flaunting her perversion for licking her hands and placing them against sockets so that she can get small electric shocks. Highlights for me were the slap stick that accompanied the burglary scene and Cora Ann’s preposterous canoeing costume which is a sight to behold. Change of location is signalled by simple roller blinds, and the cast cheekily work around their props with blatant sass. There’s a multitude of audio cues that are timed to perfection, and they execute this well.
Directed by Jim Anzide, who also plays the peculiar Dr, the cast hold the story tight and keep the laughs coming. It’s extremely hard work to successfully pull off theatre of the absurd and these professionals do it with aplomb. If you like your comedy theatre to leap right out of the box and bark in your face, this is an excellent example.