Reviewed – 22nd August 2019
“It may be a bit rough around the edges, but Jurman’s show is audacious and ultimately loveable”
With her thirtieth birthday approaching and fed up with being single, Judith embarks on a last-ditch effort to make herself lovable by reading women’s advice magazines from the 1950s. This solo clown show by Carly Jurman is clever and frequently very funny, though it hasn’t quite found its stride.
Jurman plays two characters: Judith the clown, and Judith’s more rational friend, reluctantly helping her try to achieve 1950s housewife perfection. Accompanied by a nostalgic 50s soundtrack, Judith does her best while her friend narrates and advises via voiceover. Jurman is delightfully entertaining as the mostly silent Judith. With skilled, high-energy physical comedy, a couple of costume changes, and effective use of props, she creates a whirlwind of barely controlled chaos. The performance takes brazen turns from sweet and silly into the genuinely gross. A scene involving a shaving accident is not for the squeamish, and a bit with a real, whole supermarket chicken is not for the vegan. Judith’s pouting or muttered protests in response to the voiceover are an excellent stroke, proving to be some of the funniest lines in the show.
The voiceover provides a good format. Judith is doll-like – ditzy, largely without speech, suggestible, and occasionally rebellious – as she makes a mess of following instructions. However, the recording itself is a weak point in the production. A bit awkward and stilted, the audio jokes don’t land nearly as well as the ones Jurman performs live. There’s a funny moment when Judith eats marshmallows off the floor. It works well as visual comedy. Jurman’s voiceover comment, “What are you? A human hoover?” isn’t necessary, and falls flat. Regular iterations of “ugh, Judith!” and “Judith, no!” come across tinny – it feels very much like listening to a recording rather than the present voice of a convincing second character.
The opening of the show has a similar problem. Jurman enters and announces she’s looking for Judith. The ordeal she makes of ‘looking’ and her repetitive lines, “Judith! Where are you! There are people waiting!”, feel wooden. The bit goes on for a little while too long. Following this, the scenario of Judith’s friend being locked in the closet doesn’t really make sense – are we meant to understand she’s talking to Judith from the closet throughout? A bit more development regarding this setup, who the friend/narrator is and her place in the story, could benefit the show.
Throughout the story, there’s a loose thread questioning whether modern society has progressed all that much from the ‘dark ages’ of 50s housewife magazines. Are our Groupons for spa treatments and plastic surgeries any better than the ads back then? This idea needs focusing. It isn’t coming through strongly enough for what is probably the show’s main argument.
Although it could use further development, Unlovable is wild and bold. Jurman proves herself a formidable performer as well as a proficient writer, couching some of the most important feminist questions in the craziest comedy. It may be a bit rough around the edges, but Jurman’s show is audacious and ultimately loveable.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Photography by Taylor Burton
Etcetera Theatre until 25th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019
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