King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 20th July
“A brave and charismatic performance”
Whilst comedy has always had a hand in social commentary, the last few years have brought a new strain of honesty to the mix; shows such as Richard Gadd’s ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’, Adam Lazarus’ ‘Daughter’ and Jessie Cave’s ‘Sunrise’ have relied more directly on personal experiences, creating a much riskier but ultimately richer and more engaging performance. ‘Oddball’ endeavours to do the same, talking at length about a subject that polite conversation dictates we circumnavigate.
Oddball has got herself a date. And this one is set to be a whole lot better than the endless duds who came before. Only thing is, it’s in a restaurant, the menu’s calorie content unknown. Which, Oddball assures us, is barely a thing. OK, it’s a bit of a thing. Actually, it’s kind of a major problem: Oddball was previously diagnosed with an eating disorder, and whilst the generally accepted narrative is that someone is diagnosed, treated and hey presto they’re cured, it’s rarely that simple.
‘Oddball’ tells a story of ongoing struggle with great humour and zeal. With director Micha Mirto opting for no props and a basic costume (shorts and a tank top), Francesca Maria Forristal (writer and performer) has nowhere to hide. She takes on the whole production, striding resolutely across the entire stage, miming any necessary accessories, including, somehow, changes in camera angles, with only a few sound effects (Jordan Clarke) to aid in her imagined creations. She is fearless in her undertaking, talking directly with the audience throughout, often bursting in to song. What’s most commendable is her effort to find the comedy in what is, no doubt, a very common and serious problem.
There’s a slight immaturity to the delivery – Forristal seems unsure whether the audience will in fact enjoy the combination of vaudeville and pathos, and recognise that there’s a difference between laughing with and laughing at affliction. But we do. It’s perhaps the only way to tell a story like this, spliced generously with laughter. The plot could also be a little pacier, maybe making room for a meatier story line, and even a second half.
A brave and charismatic performance, Forristal is clearly one to watch. Whilst she may have a way to go it’s exciting to see the beginning of what will no doubt be a long and successful venture in comedy.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Chris Cox
King’s Head Theatre as part of Playmill New Writing Festival. Then at Upstairs at the Gatehouse from 20th – 24th August
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: