Abi Roberts: Anglichanka

Sat 6th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Charlotte Thomas

at 10:04 on 11th Aug 2016

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When we are greeted at the entrance of the Voodoo Rooms’ Speakeasy venue by a loud woman in a furry Russian hat (complemented by corresponding accent), it is clear we are in for a high-energy, entertaining performance. 'Anglichanka', written and performed by Abi Roberts, is hilarious, thought-provoking and a joy to watch.

Anglichanka (meaning ‘Englishwoman’ in Russian), takes the audience through Roberts’s year of living in 1990’s Moscow, and her experiences there. After our effusive welcome at the door from the leading lady herself, we are treated to an all-singing, all-dancing opening to the dulcet strains of Boney M’s 'Rasputin'. Music is provided by an endearingly bewildered-looking DJ in the corner of the stage, whom I later discover is called Igor. Roberts take us from her time at Swansea University to her surprise acceptance into the Moscow Conservatoire, to the rollercoaster of living a year in the former Soviet Union and beyond. Also featured are: Benidorm, an abortive production of 'Chicago' (in Russian, naturally) and – of course – Sergei the Russian soldier.

The opening sets the tone at an extremely high level, which is maintained throughout. During this short opening routine and the first few minutes of introductory audience interaction, Roberts completely wins over the audience and makes them feel perfectly at home. From this point on, the show proper commences – although the material is so seamlessly put together and delivered that it’ is hard to say when the run-up material ends and the show material begins. During the show, it becomes clear that wonderful comedic writing is not the only treat in store. We are taught some Russian pronunciation basics (to varying effect), take in a bit of 'La Bohème' after a beginner’s singing tutorial and, finally, are taught a Russian thigh-slap move.

While undoubtedly hilarious, this piece also offers food for thought. Amongst her other talents, Roberts is fluent in Russian and is returning to Russia this year performing in English and Russian – the first UK comic to do so. Roberts’s relationship with Russia on a personal level raises many interesting insights within the piece, such as acceptance (or lack thereof) and censorship in post-Soviet Russia. It also demonstrates how comedy can be used to great effect – Roberts’s biting commentary is so subtly embedded in her script that it is never forced, but none the less challenging.

To conclude, I heartily recommend seeing Abi Roberts’s Anglichanka – intelligent, self-effacing and deeply personal comedy: absolutely not to be missed.

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Izzie Fernandes

at 11:45 on 11th Aug 2016

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This mid afternoon performance begins as a rainy trek off the beaten track of the Royal Mile to the Voodoo Rooms. Having surrendered to the relentless drizzle which has characterized the Fringe so far, we join a sizeable queue. Fast forward an hour and a half, I am sitting in a café pondering over what I have just seen. Yes, I have decided, the wet walk was fully justified and the crowd of keen faces makes sense.

Picture Abi Roberts, a bounding nineteen year old Londoner being flown off on an Aeroflot flight to the Soviet Year during the 1990s. This is one thing. The fact this is done so as to take a place at opera school in Moscow, is quite another.

With all the enthusiasm and perfect timing of the first UK comic stand up in English and Russian, Roberts embarks upon a hilarious tale with sustained energy which cannot fail to delight. Robert’s incorporating of impressions, one liners and ad-lib is superb. Only when the hour was up do I realize I had not peeled my eyes from the glowing performance.

Think platinum blonde hair, red lips, black elastic sweatpants, gyration, MC’ing, a Russian fur hat and a strident voice. Roberts entrances the audience in a way I have seen few times before.

Abi’s entrance sets the tone- she is a a fireball of energy who ignites the audience in a heat of giggles and claps. At times, her story is shocking. Raw language and bawdy jokes role. Yet the performance is balanced. Roberts recounts her student years of being bent over in club, chips and one hand and a snake bite in the other with a naturalness and honesty which twisted, and turned via intelligent reference to Russian history throughout.

A comedian who doubles up as an opera singer is a stage presence to be reckoned with. Whilst we speak of the cold in Russia, the art, vodka, Putin, and more vodka, Roberts also has us glugging our Russian g’s and practicing opera breathing techniques.

The show’s title Anglichanka means ‘Little English Girl'. Yet this one-woman show has not a little but a whole lot of energy. Marge Simpson, Bond, Liam Neeson, a toilet trained dog and most memorably her own mother are brought to life and I am certain the line ‘I’m Putin, a meerekat with nuclear weapons’ will never leave me.

It is bizarre, and boundless, yet so honest. With a finale to end all finales, an hour spent in the Voodoo Rooms may just be your ticket to brighten up the dreary, drizzle this Fringe.

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