In Case We Disappear - Free

Thu 13th – Sun 30th August 2015


Hannah Matthews

at 10:32 on 18th Aug 2015



In Case We Disappear is a somewhat haunting, somewhat entertaining and an incredibly soothing series of relatable stories ranging from awkward brotherly hugs to accidentally booty-calling her ex.

While these may seem like great topics for stand-up comedy, Vanessa Smythe’s show had an unusual twist. Performed through spoken word, song and an impressive fluidity of movement, In Case We Disappear is certainly a curious solo show.

Appearing very aware of the softness of her own mellow Canadian accent, she suggested several times we were welcome to drift off to sleep. Not being entirely sure if she was joking, I tried my very best to remain awake and engaged with her stories.

Unfortunately, the soft silky tones, haunting as they were, began to almost feel like background noise as I followed the fluidity of her gestures, distractedly contemplating that if she has not tried ballet or interpretive dance, that may be her true calling. Her words were hypnotic – almost so much that I struggled to remain interested in her stories. Particularly those based in a ‘Canadian sports bar’ a setting and etiquette culturally alien to us pub loving Brits.

Granted some stories were genuinely entertaining. A tale of brotherly-sisterly awkward hugs was right on point and a sung tale of an accidental drunk booty-call is a story I’d happily watch again specifically for the beauty she was able to sing ‘oh shit’. Special mention must go to her ‘big band’. Vanessa is a talented performer, her facial expressions and grand gestures would not be out of place in a musical. However, I struggled to see exactly what the aim of her show was. While many of her tales were emotional, evoking stories of heartbreak and brief romance they were interjected by somewhat forced jokes and her show lacked a consistent tone.

For most of the audience, myself included, Vanessa’s show was not what we expected from a solo show at 9pm. I expect I wasn’t the only one who thought we’d be treated to some post watershed stand up. However, as the audience filed out with whispers of ‘it wasn’t what I expected but…’ there was a sense that at least everyone had been able to relate to one story. Despite my criticism of the Canadian sports bar, the six or seven Canadians in the audience appeared to find it raucously funny. This difference of opinion perhaps epitomizes the show, there is something for everyone but you may have to sit through 45 minutes to find it. Maybe less close to bedtime, or with slightly more staccato phrasing, I’d have been able to approach tales of how she came to love poetry with more interest.


Verity Bell

at 12:01 on 18th Aug 2015



Canadian Vanessa Smythe has a relentless fear of disappearing, and is faintly bemused by the fact we might not share it. In this unusual show combining poetry, stand up and unaccompanied singing, Smythe shares with us a series of personal anecdotes. It was difficult to see how each related to the central theme she introduced at the beginning of the show; it was almost impossible to find any of them relatable.

This was largely due to the material covering ground so generic that we never got an impression of Smythe as a person. A story about falling in love with a fellow poet lacked detail of emotional specifics; we caught glimpses of what was done and said, but nothing of her subsequent thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, there were some cultural translation issues the impact of which might have been lessened had they been acknowledged. Without explanation, it is a tall order to make sports bars, Cheetos and middle school graduations resonate with British audiences.

Her voice is undoubtedly soulful and beautiful, but there is little substance in what she sings or says. Merely reciting words in a melodic voice with exaggerated gestures is not the same as spoken word poetry - her prose was neither evocative nor particularly original. We yearned for revelations or insights which never came. Additionally, inserting the occasional a cappella cover into the set added nothing to the show and sat slightly at odds with the theme identified in the opening. Any receptive attention present at the beginning of the show slumped into tedium which progressed eventually to fully-fledged boredom.

In the short stand up riffs breaking up songs and poems, Smythe appeared predominantly to play off being young and doe-eyed in lieu of developing a likeable or interesting comic personality. As a result, this was met with sporadic, sympathetic chuckles at best and at worst, silence pregnant with awkwardness.

Poetry without personality or purpose is painful to witness. Far greater thought needs to be devoted to the material in order for In Case We Disappear to be a worthwhile show.


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