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It Hasn’t Happened Yet …

 

 

Written and performed by Liz Carr

 

Directed by Matt Rutter

 

Produced by Matthew Jones

 

Soho Theatre

 

29 - 31 July 2010

 

 

 


 

 

A review by Richard J Thornton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

I can’t tell whether writing a review about a disabled comedian’s autobiographical stand-up comedy within a piece of theatre will be a minefield or not. Oh, it already is one. Liz Carr’s It Hasn’t Happened Yet is a provocative comedy which forces you to question attitudes towards disability not just through its content but by Carr’s transfixing stage presence. Liz Carr plays Alex Saunders (a thinly varnished artistic representation of herself), a struggling comedian who is disabled and wants to tell jokes about it. According to Saunders, the world is ready to embrace disabled comedians, just not ones who tell jokes about their condition. The question, like many a moral tale, is what matters more: being successful, or being yourself?

The plot is simple: Saunders wants to make people laugh so she heads out on the toilet circuit of Liverpool, struggles, then, gets spotted. The catch is, she gets only gets noticed when she heeds outside advice and changes her act, a move that upsets her and almost makes her give up comedy for good.

Saunders doesn’t just wear her heart on her sleeve, but on the props and the set that surround her. First, there’s the creepy puppet doppelganger, Little Al, who acts as a negative, taunting conscience, acted by Carr via pre-recorded voice-overs. Second, there’s a host of twelve clothe-scarecrows strung up behind her who act as her judging panel: the teachers, well-meaning friends, fellow comedians and family members who are the chorus of pressure and doubt every creative soul is burdened with.

Carr is a funny comedian – when she told jokes people laughed. She is also an engaging actress, and when she acted, the audience were affected. The difficulty came with blending these two styles of performance into one cohesive work. And to be honest, the blend didn’t really work. Not that this matters, because the work was bravely new. I wasn’t pushed to the edge of my seat with discomfort, or suspense for that matter, but I was bewitched by Carr. She was electric, and I don’t just mean her wheelchair, and I say this in a way that I hope Carr would respect, because this is the kind of joke she would make.

It is possible, but unlikely, that the show is attempting to toe the Shakespearean formula of drama followed by comic relief followed by drama and so forth, but if so, it failed. Its structure is too brittle and in need of lubrication, which is a shame for the comedy, because it’s sharp. In fact, the audience is left wanting more of it, and delightfully, is treated to a series of hilarious voice-over sketches at the close of the show. However, the success of this finale may be a direct product of the fact that Carr herself has left the stage and the pressure of where to laugh and where not to has sufficiently eased.

In addition to Little Al and the scarecrows, the set was sparse. A table with a red phone, a pad of paper and a purple polka dot mug were mirrored with a replica in front of the protagonist’s other self, and stage right, a lone microphone denoted the ‘on-stage’ space for the stand-up scenes. The space between the two arenas meant Carr spent much of the performance travelling across it on her wheelchair, but her movement was magnetic, and my eyes were locked.

As a whole the show both confused and entertained me. Confused because it was often unclear what response Carr hoped to elicit, and entertained by making me feel provocatively bereft. That is, the show beseeched a choice from the audience: whether to accept its dualism or reject it, and this challenge was a personal highlight.

In a way, one questions how conscious the piece was, and in a way, one feels that if you have to ask then you already know. However, if you’re ready for a new brand of comedy and theatre, give this a whirl. It might not cripple you with laughter (sorry, another Carr inspired gag), but it’ll make you question where, if at all, the lines between comedy and theatre should be drawn.

 

8pm

Soho Theatre
21 Dean Street,
London,
W1D 3NE

Box Office: 020 7478 0100

www.sohotheatre.com

Tickets: £12 (£10 concessions)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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