Telenovela

Thu 4th – Sat 6th August 2016

reviews

Julia O'Driscoll

at 08:46 on 7th Aug 2016

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Emma Sidi’s solo character comedy show ‘Telenovela’ isn’t going to be for everyone. In an hour, Sidi takes on three distinct personas: South American Vanessa, Northern Sarah, and European Brita. Their common interest? A love of television. There is a whole load of drama, audience participation, and of course contemporary interpretive dance. No shying away from this one!

Pleasance That was packed with an almost sell-out Saturday night crowd, who were buzzing with anticipation. The show itself, like the soundtrack, is loud and full of energy which Sidi certainly maintains throughout. Her accents are consistently ingenious, and her characterisation is certainly the highlight of the show.

Vanessa’s sassy “reconstructions of a very negative period of my life” give the show its title, as a Latin American soap opera unfolds on stage in Spanish. Sarah, an avid fan of Vanessa, recreates Mastermind before her own life digresses into a Jeremy Kyle episode, and Brita invites us all to her first ever live newsreel, to varying degrees of success.

Some enforced audience participation becomes fairly uncomfortable to watch. Three members of the crowd were pulled onstage a number of times; some embraced it wholeheartedly, joining Sidi in her wild dance moves, whilst one man, Pablo, looked like he would rather be anywhere else in the world, and I doubt he relaxed for the remainder of the performance…

But the show’s structure and pace remained consistently strong, whether we were singing along to Enrique Iglesias or keeping our fingers crossed not to be picked out from the crowd (and hoping that Pablo wouldn’t have to go up again!).

It divided our audience: half gave a standing ovation, while others seemed to be more in a state of shock or confusion as to what they had just witnessed. It’s definitely going to be a hot topic of conversation at the Fringe, and it really is quite an experience; whether it’s your kind of thing remains to be seen.

Sidi is certainly having fun: as she acknowledges, “that was an hour of total bullshit”. It certainly is. At times Telenovela is completely hilarious, at other points terrifying, but it is continuously mad. It’s an exciting new show, a good concept, and an outrageous performance from a talented young comedian. These fearsome women are going to be heard whether you like it or not – but I would try and avoid the front row if you can!

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Toby Clyde

at 14:59 on 7th Aug 2016

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It takes unusual comedic skill to have a Fringe audience in stitches within the first five minutes a performance without speaking a single word of English. But this is par for the course as far as Emma Sidi is concerned in this over the top love child between stand up comedy and Latin American soap opera. Although Sidi struggles to keep the manic energy of her performance going near the end it is nevertheless an hour of ridiculous and joyfully self-aware high drama.

The show is a love letter to the genre and the American television series ‘Telenovela’, a programme about actors in a fictional Spanish soap, and loosely revolves around Sidi’s murder of her lover Pablo whilst tragically addicted to cough medicine. In it her gleefully Spainsh persona, Gabriella, charges on stage like a force of nature, roping in members of the audience to play the starring roles, whether they like it or not. However there is more and while this tale of love and loss is unfolding in a mix of Spanish, stand up and interpretive dance, Sidi sharply segues in to a few different characters and scenes of varying sanity.

Audience interaction is a big part and it is a testament to her experience that she can turn the rabbit in the headlights response of some front row punters into a hilarious sketch. In fact much of the comedy comes from the car crash collision of British reticence and exaggerated drama, a highlight being the main sing along of truly god-awful proportions. Still, it is certainly much funnier to watch than to be subjected to and audience members should definitely be prepared for an occasional verbal bludgeoning.

Although the lack of subtly doesn’t always feel deliberate it’s almost never a problem when Sidi flamboyant delivery, dancing and prop choices keep the show roaring along. When she does pause it is only to switch into a wildly different register that often serves as an enjoyably self-aware nod to the silliness of it all. However inevitably the performance did start to sag near the end and while the heat of the box stage certainly didn’t help some of the later characters lacked the same energy or distinctive personality.

Nevertheless Emma Sidi is a more than welcome return to the Fringe, so with a few drinks and a Spanish dictionary let Gabriella take you on a montaña rusa emocional.

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