Pleasance Theatre

GWYNETH GOES SKIING at the Pleasance Theatre


“it is hard to parody something that is so absurd in the first place”

One fateful day in 2016, award-winning actress and Goop-founding entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow and retired optometrist Terry Sanderson collided on a ski slope at Utah’s Deer Valley Resort. Three years later, Sanderson filed a lawsuit against Paltrow for the sum of $3,000,000 (ultimately reduced tenfold). In early 2023, the trial kicked off with Sanderson claiming broken bones and life-changing injuries whilst Paltrow lamented a loss of “half a day of skiing” and countersued for $1.

The trial immediately became an iconic pop culture moment and featured many notable moments – from starstruck lawyers to questions about what Taylor Swift is really like. It thus seems only natural that camp-obsessed Linus Karp and Joseph Martin – together, Awkward Productions and fresh from the hilarious Princess Di in Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story – would turn the court case into the cabaret-drag musical Gwyneth Goes Skiing.

The absurdity of the whole affair is made clear before the show even starts. Screens to the side of the stage invite us to take part in a ‘Celebrity Lawsuit Name Generator’ and songs about falling or colliding with the occasional ‘ski’ dubbed over their choruses.

Unfortunately, this is one of the few times where the technology of the show was reliable – mic packs failed, screens had no signal, and the cast were forced to improvise when no lines appear for their participating audience members. Shout out to the two Stage Managers – Lauren Lambert-Moore and Ella Kennedy – for handling these problems so well. Their apparent boredom at the proceedings only added to the hilarity and stupidity of it all.

Karp plays a soft-spoken and self-obsessed Paltrow whilst Martin is Sanderson, an exceedingly awkward old man who leads a miserable life in stark context to his lawsuit rival. The pair – as expected – have great chemistry and are clearly having a lot of fun on stage. The rest of our colourful characters are made up of the audience themselves who are selected as they take their seats. The audience as a whole also has a significant role to play at the end of the show as they vote via QR code on whether Paltrow is Gwinnocent or Gwuilty.

“a fun show, and the pop culture references are rife.”

The main issue in this production is its pacing. The show drags – it is far longer than it ever needed to be. There is some expectation in drag circles that the overly camp will also be a bit rubbish featuring poor props and an ill-rehearsed cast. This, however, only works when the performance is also exceptionally funny which Gwyneth Goes Skiing is unfortunately not.

The audience must endure monumental amounts of filler. We meet The Deer of Deer Valley (a painted cardboard structure), Mrs Rabbit and Mr Squirrel (both puppets) on the slopes. The court scene eventually enters a montage sequence of key moments but not before near 30-minutes of inane chatter. The characters speak slowly – Paltrow understandably so – but it takes all the zing out of all the delivery. There are funny moments – joyously, Paltrow’s daughter Apple is played by an apple – but the largest laughs came from the show going wrong and even from the witty retorts of the participating audience.

The songs are originals by Leland – American songwriter of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame – and they are…OK. The best song is incidentally also the only one that is sung live by Martin via an appropriately absurd puppet of Sanderson’s attorney Kristin Vanorman. It is a shame that Karp and Martin opted for a lip-synced musical – especially as the voices do not match the gentle Swedish tones or gruff brutish voice of their respective characters.

The staging is fine. The revolve is used well to simulate skiing and the court scenes of the second half have a nice aesthetic to them. The audience is treated to recreations of Paltrow’s court-side outfits though Karp’s wig should really be the thing on trial here.

Gwyneth Goes Skiing is a fun show, and the pop culture references are rife. However, Karp and Martin don’t quite capture the camp of the original trial and it is hard to parody something that is so absurd in the first place. This is unfortunately not the duo’s strongest show.


GWYNETH GOES SKIING at the Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed on 7th February 2024

by Flora Doble

Photography by Jonny Ruff




Previously reviewed at this venue:

CASTING THE RUNES | ★★★ | October 2023
DIRTY CORSET | ★★½ | April 2022
SHE SEEKS OUT WOOL | ★★★★ | January 2022
DOG SHOW | ★★★★★ | December 2021
LIGHTS OUT | ★★★★ | October 2021
CATCHING COMETS | ★★★★ | September 2021
EXPRESS G&S | ★★★★ | June 2021
GINGER JOHNSON & PALS | ★★★★ | June 2021
GODOT IS A WOMAN | ★★★½ | June 2021



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page