Review: Sarah Keyworth: Dark Horse

4*
Soho Upstairs, London
Mon 28 Jan – Sat 2 Feb 2019

Growing up, Nottingham-born new comedy face Sarah Keyworth didn’t live up to society’s expectations about what a girl should be. Bullied for her ‘masculine’ attributes, she went off to university determined to be the Perfect Straight Woman with long hair and a ‘Straight Girl Laugh’—and was then called out for her perceived promiscuity.

Keyworth takes us on a hilarious journey through her childhood and adolescence as a young lesbian in the context of our bizarrely gendered world and its strict rules for boys and girls. But this stand-up routine goes on to tell the story of another little girl.

Out of university and out of the closet, Keyworth finds herself working as a nanny to two delightfully posh children with ‘dogs’ names’. Roly and Baxter are so posh, in fact, that they don’t play ‘Cops & Robbers’ but ‘Metropolitian Police and Ruffians’.

Keyworth initially doubts she’ll have much to offer the girly, pony-loving Roly. But to her amazement, a beautiful bond develops with this child, and before long, Keyworth discovers a fierce maternal protectiveness in herself. When little Roly tells her ‘fanny’ (a nanny who is also a friend) that she is afraid of looking like a ‘slut’ at just seven years old, Keyworth realises she will fight to the death to protect this little girl from the forces of sexism.

When she’s not got you giggling with gags about babies in dresses looking like shuttlecocks, she’s delivering truths that leave the audience so silent you could hear a pin drop. With her deadpan, assured delivery, Keyworth is simultaneously tough-as-old-boots and vulnerable—an engaging presence that holds the audience enraptured.

It’s quite extraordinary how Keyworth manages to combine perfectly-delivered jokes, intelligent commentary on sexism and personal anecdotes into a one-hour show without dropping the ball (or, should I say, shuttlecock). She never wanders into preachiness or sentimentality, but delivers an intelligent, sincere, heartwarming piece of stand-up that packs a punch.

I’m far from the first person to say it, particularly after a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. But this woman is certainly one to watch. Especially if you want to know why lesbians are always dressed for combat.

© J. McClellan 2018

This production is running at The Soho Theatre until the 2nd Feb. Book Now.

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Review: Come Closer

HOME – Manchester
3*

Come Closer was performed as part of PUSH Festival at HOME and created by Gareth Cutter. It starts with an innocuous encounter between two men in New York: one a famous photographer, the other a nameless drifter. But when their “street photography” interview takes an unexpectedly up-close-and-personal turn, things begin to unravel, plunging the audience into a maze of hospital corridors and underground clubs where truth and fiction meld, and pleasure is never far away.

Come Closer utilised a mixture of interesting techniques to create a dreamlike and surreal theatrical experience. It was visually striking, from a pair of red rubber gloves that made a loud smacking noise, the continuous use of a voice distorter and the performer consistently shrouded in semi darkness – sometimes with his back to the audience. This all made for an intriguing and unsettling atmosphere. In particular, the use of voice distortion throughout the play was interesting. It made the mood of the piece hard to read at times, which I actually quite liked. It also ensured for a level of removal from the action of the piece that meant that even when the play was funny, it was also unsettling.

However, the storytelling and narrative threads of Come Closer never quite came together as well as I wanted them to. The shifts in tone and specificity of the encounter of New York against the personal stories that were interweaved throughout the play felt a bit lacking in conclusion and meaning. Some scenes played a little too long, or the actor broke character and laughed with the audience – creating a mixture of moods that felt inconsistent at times. That’s not to say that there’s not plenty of potential here. At times, Come Closer was intimate, engaging and funny – but this would quickly change and become something that I think was trying to be unsettling but instead felt slightly confusing.

Come Closer was an intriguing concoction of ingredients that didn’t quite come together to hit the mark – however, I’d be interested in seeing how it develops in the future.

© M. Holland 2019

This performance has now closed.

 

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Photo: Michele Selway

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q and A with Sarah Keyworth

Sarah Keyworth comes to The Soho Theatre this month, with her show Sarah Keyworth: Dark Horse – a story about her life, an important little girl and her battle against every expectation of what being a girl means. We sent some questions over to Sarah this week to find out a little more about her and this show.

What was your journey in to becoming a comedian? And what drew you to comedy in the first place?

I mostly started doing comedy at University. I met a bunch of other students who were doing it and it was a really nice environment to try and fail at being funny over and over again.

Tell us a little about Dark Horse and where the inspiration for it came from…

Dark Horse is about how we raise children, specifically girls, with very rigid expectations. It’s about how I never understood or manage to meet those expectations and about a little girl I have in my life now who is also finding them challenging. It’s also funny. I should stress that.

What do you hope audiences will take away from watching?

I hope they have a good time! And maybe think a little more carefully about why we expect what we expect based on gender… if they haven’t already before!

We have heard a lot over recent years around the difficulties female comedians face, particularly when it comes to the programming of larger events we often see a lack of women’s voices, do you feel any change on this from within the scene, are people becoming more aware?

I think the issue of female representation is relevant is almost every industry at the moment. I do think it’s changing for the better. There are some incredible comedy bookers and promoters who just know good comedians when they see them, regardless of gender.

Who are your favourite LGBT+ voices in comedy?

Zoe Lyons, Jen Brister, Chloe Petts, Joe Sutherland, Shelf, Tig Notaro… I mean the list is endless. We’re very good at comedy us queers.

Following your run at The Soho Theatre, where can we see you next?

I’m taking my show on tour! And writing a new one! I’m at the 99 Club in Leicester Sq every Tuesday night and I post all of my gigs on social media @sarahkcomedy and on my website http://www.sarahkeyworth.co.uk.

Sarah’s show, Dark Horse, will run at the Soho Theatre, 28th Jan – 2nd Feb 2019.  Book now. 

© The LGBTQ Arts Review 2019

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Review: The Hidden Pin Up

4*
Presented bt The House of Ghetto and Gemma Parker Art, HOME, Manchester
This performance has now closed

The Hidden Pin Up is a moving and intimate spoken word and dance piece that was showing as part of Push Festival at HOME in Manchester.

The piece was created collaboratively following research around the fetishization of the black female body in pin ups from the mid-20th century and observing the language used and erasure of identity. Taking this initial inspiration, artist Gemma Parker and House of Ghetto teamed up to explore the legacy of racial stereotypes still found in modern life.

These conversations informed the content for The Hidden Pin Up, which is presented through a mixture of dance and spoken word. The piece focuses around a young woman dancing while she is constantly questioned and held under scrutiny: ‘I’m not really into black girls but-’, ‘will you date me?’. The relentless questioning, mixed with expressive dance makes for a political piece that’s impactful and powerful.

At ten minutes long, this piece was a refreshing and challenging experience and well worth a watch if you get a chance. I’d certainly be interested in seeing where it ends up in the future.

© M. Holland 2019

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Series Review: Out On Stage

Stand up comedy, especially in the UK is still dominated by heterosexual white men and despite woman and minorities starting to get noticed in the mainstream the balance is still incredibly weighted against anyone who is not a cis white male. The new ‘quota’ system put in place at the BBC meaning that panel shows have to include a certain number of female comics, has caused the industry to stand up and present a more diverse array of presenters and panelists, but even with people like Sandi Toxvig, Alan Carr and Joe Lynette hosting some major shows, there is clearly still a long way to go.

From stateside comes “Out on Stage” a brand new stand up comedy series that focuses solely on LGBTQ+ performers. Hosted by Zach Noe Towers (for whom this has been a passion project to get off the ground) the series is split into six, thirty minute episodes, each with three relatively unknown (at least in the UK) LGBTQ+ comedians. Towers is an LA based stand up and talks openly about the difficulty of being the ‘token gay’ in any line up and so along with Comedy Dynamics and Dekko has curated these season of voices that hopefully will showcases voices that are so often sidelined. He says “What an incredible experience it’s been to bring together such a gorgeously funny group of queer comedians. Each and every person featured in the content has such a unique perspective and I’m thrilled that we’re being given a platform for those hilarious voices to be heard.”

Across the episodes, there is a very eclectic mix of styles which manages to flow and connect due to Towers’ natural charm and ability to cleanse the pallet between each performer. One highlights is Kyle Shire (episode 1) a Chicago based ‘bear’ who is the first person I can remember since Mel Brooks who could draw belly-laughs from Nazi material and who is fighting for feminism by aggressively objectifying straight men.

Another stand out comes in Episode 3. Gloria Bigelow, a black woman with “LLE” or “Low Lesbian Esteem” who rackets through the struggles of being a ‘non obvious lesbian’, the coming out to her mother and the inability to be with white women, in a short but laugh a minute set that could easily have gone on for the full episode.

Comedy is, of course, incredibly subjective but I found the quality to range quite dramatically with clear stand outs along with performers who didn’t manage to get much of a titter from me at all, that said Out on Stage is a fantastic collection of comedy which should cater for a broad taste with this eclectic mix of personality and voice ether you like story led comedy, one liners or just plain in your face.

As much as enjoyed working through the series, deep down I could’t help but feel sad that this kind of narrow field of curation is needed in order to be seen and heard as an LGBTQ+ comic. Hopefully this can draw attention to a need for more gay voices in the genre and push comedy to a place where this kind of series is not needed anymore.

© Harry Richards 2019

Watch the trailer here.

You can access the series via Dekkoo (a subscription channel with a primary target audience of gay men) here.

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Review: 6 Conversations

3*
The Glory

The first thing to hit me as I took my seat in a basement in London’s glamorous Haggerston was a wave of nostalgia. I haven’t seen an overhead projector since I was at school watching Mr Jones the physics teacher draw electrical circuits on one, the machine’s whirring fan soundtracking my education.

In 6 Conversations, the projector is used as the primary light source, an unusual but practical design which also allows a succession of words to be projected against the back of the set, headlining the play’s scenes.

Charting a gay man’s journey from adolescence to something approaching adulthood, Sasha Kane’s play is composed of the six conversations of the title: six independent scenes which offer snapshots of the central character Owen.

Kane himself plays Owen, with Daniel Walters taking on all the other roles, and both give solid, committed performances. They are perhaps a little restrained by the small stage area and the set design: with every scene consisting of the two actors sat chatting across a table, there isn’t a great deal of variety over the course of the play.

The conversations we’re presented with take place between Owen and his mother, his father, and his ex-boyfriend (possibly boyfriends, plural – I wasn’t sure). We start with Owen and an ex quarrelling over an STI test, then we meet Owen’s mother, an overbearing woman who’s unapologetic about having had her son sectioned when he was a vulnerable youth.

Next up is Owen’s father. This scene stands out, as Owen is 14 years old here, and Kane invests this youngest incarnation with a bouncy energy that’s immediately relatable – we were all twats in our teens, weren’t we?

The remaining scenes show us another ex-boyfriend scene, then Mum telling Owen that Dad is dead, and finally a conversation with said dead Dad, who seems surprisingly unchanged by this life-ending experience.

Kane’s script captures a certain gay archetype in the needy, demanding Owen, and he’s clearly aware that drama requires conflict, as each of the arguments played out ends with a crescendo of emotion.

It’s not quite clear what 6 Conversations is intended to leave the audience with – perhaps a reminder that family and romantic relationships are difficult to navigate? But Owen is an interesting character to spend time with – engaging and realistically flawed. When the glowing bulb of the projector was finally extinguished, I found myself hoping that Owen’s future would see him grow out of his sense of entitlement, and towards becoming a more rounded and empathetic person.

© N.Myles 2019

This performance has now closed. Follow @TheGloryLondon for future performances.

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Interview: Eleanor Perry

A Night with Thick and Tight come to The Sadlers Wells as part of Mime London, an exciting evening which promises laughs, tears and eccentricity, you can catch them there from the 17th-19th January. We caught up with one half of Thick and Tight, Eleanor Perry, to find out more about their work.

Interview by Amie Taylor

AT: To start with, tell us about the history of Thick and Tight and how you came to exist? 

EP: Sure, myself and Daniel Hay-Gordon met at The Rambert School, where we trained together. We were very good friends and were involved in each other’s work there. Then in 2012 I made a short solo about Edith Sitwell, which was for a scratch night; at the time Danny was living with me and we were listening to everything she had every written, and we came to the idea that perhaps we could turn the solo in to a duet with two characters, which we did – and that has become the thing we do with Thick and Tight, we pair up well known people that would never have met and see what comes out of it. 

AT: So what can people expect if they come along to Sadlers Wells in January?

EP: Well it’s a triple bill, with two duets that Danny and I perform, one of them is based on Queen Victoria and Mrs Haversham, it’s this mad, monstrous ballet with these two horrid characters, it’s dark and sad and awful and funny. And the second duet we perform is about Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe and the parallels in their lives, exploring what it is to be an icon, but to have the trauma and troubles to deal with at the same time. And then we have four guest artists in it too, including a moon walking Michael Jackson, amongst other treats. Then between the two duets there is a short solo performance from a wonderful dancer called Judy Cunningham, who directs at Merce Cunningham company. This is based on the lives and work of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, artists who moved to Jersey during the 2nd world war, but did lots sharing propaganda on the island which was occupied by the Germans, and were imprisoned and sentenced to death, but survived because the war ended just in time. 

Although we’re dancers and have a traditional choreographic pratice, we also cross over with cabaret and queer performance world and when we’re not in theatres we can be found performing at the RVT and LGBT+ events and spaces. 

So expect tears and kisses and landmines and drama and humour and eccentricity. 

AT: What inspired this particular piece that’s on at The Sadlers Well?

EP: The two duets were made earlier for separate commissions, and they go together quite well somehow.

AT: And what’s your hope for the future of the piece following this?

EP: We’d love to perform it further.  It’s such a pleasure to be part of London International Mime Festival, and hopefully form there there will be commissions of new work, and we have some ideas for a longer piece too. 

Be sure to catch this fabulous piece while it’s in town.  Book now.

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Image by Darren Evans