Tag Archives: David Guest

Oddball

Oddball

★★★★

VAULT Festival 2020

Oddball

Oddball

The Gift Horse

Reviewed – 15th February 2020

★★★★

 

“Any show that has a punchline of “F*** you, focaccia!” will make any audience sit up and take notice”

 

A Fit-Bit with attitude and Satanic vegan mince are among the unconventional side dishes in a very funny show that seeks to strip away the stereotypes surrounding eating disorders.

Avoiding the clichés too often heaped on any discussion about or presentation of anorexia sufferers, Francesca Forristal’s “Oddball” is a genuine attempt to face the facts – but also allows the audience to laugh comfortably at the all too real scenarios and thought processes of what she describes as the nutritionally-challenged as we get to understand it better.

Although it’s a semi-autobiographical piece the show only mirrors some of writer and performer Forristal’s story, but there is enough honest insight – and even comprehension of wider mental health issues – to make this a compelling and entertaining 60 minutes.

The show’s framing device is that Oddball (apparently so-named by her cheeky Fit-Bit Karen) is preparing for a first date with Emily. Everything seems set for success – after all, not only do they both have a passion for musical theatre, but they both like “Fun Home,” for goodness sake!) – but what might ruin things for a recovering anorexic is that the date is for dinner in a restaurant.

Through flashbacks, dream sequences, physical comedy and astute observation Forristal tells the story with incredible energy, regularly breaking the fourth wall to address audience members directly – an approach which works very well in the VAULT Festival’s Gift Horse venue, above the Horse and Stables pub.

Director Micha Mirto ensure things don’t get too introspective or downbeat, allowing Forristal to take centre stage in the one-woman show, but giving supervisory nudges to ensure none of the narrative or the actions around it linger too long.

There are laugh out loud moments, such as reflecting on past dates and explaining some of the regime at the eating disorder clinic (“Six anorexics walk into a sandwich bar…”) but these are always balanced with showing the discomfort and trauma of a sufferer when faced with a menu or the awkwardness of social situations.

While there is little in the way of scenery or props there is great sound design (Jordan Clarke) to accompany moments of mime. Clarke and Forristal have also between them written some splendid original music, much of it sending up established musical styles (as well as showing off Forristal’s rather fine singing voice). A favourite number must be The Genuinely Mentally Unwell Block Tango, which cries out for Bob Fosse jazz hands.

“She’s funny and she recovered from anorexia – what a trouper!” shouts Forristal towards the stage from the audience seats at one point and that pretty much sums up a show which bravely tackles an often taboo topic with courage and confidence. It never once pokes fun but constantly prods understanding, not ever falling into a comfortable trap of suggesting that recovery comes with a snap of the fingers or a wave of Magic Stars.

Any show that has a punchline of “F*** you, focaccia!” will make any audience sit up and take notice. When that show also handles a difficult subject with such wit and style and sends its audience out with thoughts well and truly provoked it deserves all the attention it can muster.

 

Reviewed by David Guest

 

VAULT Festival 2020

 

 

Click here to see all our reviews from VAULT Festival 2020

 

Bible John

★★★★

VAULT Festival 2020

Bible John

Bible John

Forge – The Vaults

Reviewed – 14th February 2020

★★★★

 

“the raw energy and directness of These Girls in this original show guarantees a multi-layered and intensely nuanced performance piece”

 

Think crime and female sleuths and your minds will probably go to the likes of Miss Marple, Precious Ramotswe and Jessica Fletcher.

But in “Bible John,” an enjoyable and informative new show as part of the VAULT Festival, These Girls theatre company explain that many women today are hooked on true crime podcasts, with one group of female office workers turning detective to investigate a serial killer at work in 1960s Glasgow.

This is no mere “Murder, She Podcasted.” The play successfully treads a fine line between exploring the impact such an interest in grisly murders may have on its fans, with a deeper question about male violence against women and how society treats victims, and producing a funny and entertaining festival show.

Writer Caitlin McEwan, Renee Bailey, Carla Garratt and Louise Waller play the four ordinary temps who discover they share a morbid fascination with true crime, and with a podcast reinvestigating the Bible John murders by American journalist Carrie LaRue.

Unravelling the facts from the speculation they find this sharing of the story is cathartic and empowering, while also understanding that they need to recognise this isn’t a piece of crime fiction, but a case involving true life: “This is about real women’s lives, not a game of Sudoku!” says one as the girls ignore their work demands and instead journey down a rabbit hole in search of evidence and meaning.

On a plain stage with office chairs, a screen and just a few props the four performers, under the tight and bold direction of Lizzie Manwaring, ensure there is a palpable sense of rage and irritation which can only send audiences out thinking about general attitudes towards women and the dangers of obsession in any form.

The infectious buzz of the production is aided further by Laurie Ogden’s movement direction, which captures the liberation of women who just want to dance and the release of pent-up frustration.

Just as in the unsolved murders committed by Bible John 50 years ago, this show has no ending – other than to recognise that there is no ending, that things can’t be tied up neatly, and that there are still too many anonymous victims of male violence.

The final reminder of the victims’ names with their pictures on screen underlines the powerful point that all crime has victims who must never remain an anonymous part of a story. But the raw energy and directness of These Girls in this original show guarantees a multi-layered and intensely nuanced performance piece.

 

Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Ali Wright

 

VAULT Festival 2020

 

 

Click here to see all our reviews from VAULT Festival 2020