Starring: Francesca Forristal
Written by: Francesca Forristal
Director: Micha Mirto
Upstairs at The Gatehouse, London until 24th Aug 2019
CW: Eating Disorders
“All Oddball has to do is behave like a normal person on a date. Easy. It’s in a restaurant though. Restaurants have food. And other people. Food and people. She might pull her skin off with pliers. That’s normal… right?”
Upon entering the theatre at The Gatehouse to see Oddball, I was met with the jubilant, energetic star of this one-woman show dressed in shorts and a tank top, a plaster on her leg and her hair in two long pigtails. She was already guiding her audience enthusiastically towards their seats, smiling and delivering quick, sunny quips to them. It was a good indication of what was to come – for this show, the fourth wall has been removed, deconstructed and tossed in a metaphorical scrapheap.
From before the first word of the script is uttered, Francesca Forristal invites us in to tell her story and she subsequently does this through a myriad of characters and musical numbers. A particular stand out is her impression of the man with a hero-complex that fetishizes her problems, offering to be the one to ‘fix’ her ‘broken’ parts. We watch her dip in and out of an assortment of entertaining numbers from Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Les Mis and Chicago – the Mentally Unwell Block Tango is a particularly poli-incorrect nugget.
Despite a lack of props and stage settings, Forristal bounces, jumps and moves around the stage as if it were a gymnasium. Though the script can tend to lag at times, Forristal’s kooky and charming performance keeps us engaged and zoned in on her from start to finish. With minimal lighting and a gargantuan soundscape, the comedic, personable script leads up to a sucker punch of a final fifteen minutes that is all the starker in contrast.
Although I feel Forristal’s style of writing would have brilliantly served a further exploration of queerness, I would note that what impressed me most was that Forristal knows her audience – her playful script is ready-made for the millennial generation. Chock-full of pop culture references and dating scenarios we’ve all suffered through; it relishes in self-deprecation and exaggerated characterizations. She allows us to better understand mental illness and have a giggle at the same time, in a totally frank and no-holds-barred autobiography.
This show is a part of an ongoing public conversation, and you have to admit, it’s a good way to keep the (odd)ball rolling.
Review © Killian Glynn 2019