Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Naomi Paul Presents, Reshape while Damp, a comic insight into the lives and mindsets of two women, Naomi and Dolly, dealing with the ordinary and unusual aspects of their lives. At times poignant , these two characters openly talk about their experiences and the people they encounter. An enjoyable hour.
We first meet Naomi, who immediately establishes her Jewish roots. She quickly bonds with her audience by outlining some of the issues, responsibilities and stereotypes a person of the Jewish faith has to deal with. Or, that she feels they have to deal with, because Naomi is definitely unsure about which aspects she is personally responsible for. On top of her angst about being Jewish, Naomi clearly struggles with just being a member of the human race. This woman likes to follow the rules and due to the ambiguity of the English language often finds herself in quite a muddle. She bravely enrols in courses in what can admiringly be seen as attempts to become more outgoing and fulfilled. Naomi’s experiences manage to combine comedy writing, personal injury, Nazi salutes, A and E, flirting techniques, a distrust of dogs, and whether, “ Facebook”, can be used as a verb.
Our second monologue delivered by Dolly Grip an extremely chatty Birmingham pensioner of indiscriminate age, whose every thought is spoken aloud. She appears with wicker basket and knitting, fluttering around, with her hair still in curlers, flowery dress and sensible cardigan. With no apparent off switch, Dolly openly shares her bereavement issues, asks are all self help gurus called Polly and can unused sanitary products can be donated to charity shops. Both women utilise the solid musical skills of the sound engineer/guitarist who helped finish of each set with a song.
Performing on a small stage with simple lighting and few props, these two women have to work hard to win over their audiences quickly. Naomi’s witty monologue is dry and deadpan. She is rewarded by her appreciative listeners who repeatedly dissolved into fits of laughter. The comic timing here is sublime and although you are laughing at the characters extremely uncomfortable interpretation of every situation she is in, she is a likeable and warm and often evokes sighs from the empathetic audience. Dolly, completely different, performs a much faster monologue, with less space to breath for the actress and the audience. She still earns her laughs but less frequently than Naomi. As part of the same show, it’s inevitable that the two monologues draw attention to each others’ strengths and weaknesses. The plainly dressed character that Naomi Paul plays, is a cleverly crafted piece of comedy that highlights her ability to remain static and include subtle physical nuances that compliment her dialogue. Dolly, played by Jenny Stokes, delivers her piece in a more traditional style. I felt this character still had room for development to address the imbalance between Dolly and Naomi. Although this isn’t drag, this is the genre Les Dawson made his own therefore comparison was unavoidable.
This is a piece of free comic theatre and on this occasion playing to an almost full house. The two characters entered from a side door and only due to a slight technical difficulty was the magic broken during the changeover. I would have liked to see more made of the connection between the two women. Their monologues, comic and intermittingly dark, reveal they both are looking at life and at times made similar assumptions. Both women attend self development groups, both women were searching for something. Although Dolly is a comic turn she reminded me of many of the older generation who appear to be almost querying what is acceptable in today’s society. With Naomi, at times, there is a genuine sadness with points when I had to question myself. What exactly was I laughing at? I don’t doubt that we all know people who are like her, unsure of their place and feeling as though they are always missing the joke.
This is an enjoyable, non-threatening, hour. These two women are very comfortable on the stage and it will leave you with a smile on your face.