Tag Archives: Jordan Clarke

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

 

Oddball
★★★½

King’s Head Theatre

Oddball

Oddball

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 20th July

★★★½

 

“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

 

Playmill Logo.jpg

Oddball

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:
Carmen | ★★★★ | February 2019
Timpson: The Musical | ★★★ | February 2019
The Crown Dual | ★★★★ | March 2019
Undetectable | ★★★★ | March 2019
Awkward Conversations With Animals … | ★★★★ | April 2019
HMS Pinafore | ★★★★ | April 2019
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019

 

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