Herselves

Thu 3rd – Thu 24th August 2017

reviews

Nina Attridge

at 19:15 on 18th Aug 2017

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Maddy Anholt has the brand of humour perfectly suited to a British TV panel show. For that, she would be just the perfect balance of offensive, intelligent and just the right amount of feminist to not make the average male viewer uncomfortable. I can already picture her gloriously holding her own against Frankie Boyle as Dara O’Brien attempts to appease the situation. For me however, ‘Herselves’ used a lot of words to say not very much. Anholt was lucky in this performance that some audience members were almost as witty as she was, making her job distinctively easier when engaging the crowd as cast members of her one-woman show. Some of the sketches got lost amongst the funnier ones, giving across the impression that they were an afterthought used to fill the allocated time. It is very possible I have been thoroughly spoilt for choice with the bizarre hilarity of the rest of the Fringe, but for me this humour was a little too tame and lacked innovation.

All this said, I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from going to see ‘Herselves’. I did laugh throughout, and I will always enjoy a performer making audience members cower in their seats as they shy away from being selected to participate. Unfortunately, however, my constant laughter for the duration of the show was quickly forgotten as the second I walked out of the door, I struggled to remember any specific jokes that had been funny. While the show as a whole felt far from ground-breaking, there were moments of true originality in some her sketches. Some of the characters were fabulously cringe-inducing, and credit to Anholt herself- she was never thrown if a joke didn’t quite get the reaction intended. It was thankfully, never bad enough to be awkward, but not truly funny enough to be memorable. Her confidence was a reassuring presence on stage and she simultaneously put you at ease and made you fear being selected for one of the bizarre gameshows. If the content of what the characters were saying wasn’t hilarious, her embodiment of such a broad range of personas was impressive. She gave such gusto to her acting that you couldn’t help but laugh at her quick transitions from child to South African trans-species woman. Yes, you heard me correctly. Staging and props were well utilised, and the overall performance was polished and well-executed. While this was clearly a show with finesse, it was lacking the quirky edge that is needed to make ‘Herselves’ stand out.

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Mark Bogod

at 11:51 on 19th Aug 2017

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In ‘Herselves’, Maddy Anholt presents to us a show with very hit-and-miss results. A one-woman performance, Anholt does well to keep the audience involved and interested through clever characterisations, but ultimately fails to raise the laughs that she might be capable of with a better script.

The show consists of a diverse array of quirky character sketches, from a cleaner left in charge of a radio show, to a ‘trans-species’ zookeeper. The show opens strongly – TV personality ‘Shazza’ strides on and immediately starts berating the audience for not giving an appropriate welcome and we are ordered to try again with specific instructions. Unfortunately, from then on, the sketches went downhill, although a couple had me in stitches, particularly the ‘Norman’ sketch, featuring a polygamous woman with countless husbands all called Norman. This was in great part to Anholt’s skilled employment of audience participation which was for me the strongest part of the show, for instance by getting audience members to phone into a radio show, or participate a game show her character was presenting. Anholt is clearly a highly skilled actress, placing each character within seconds through highly convincing voices and mannerisms. In this way, audience participation served to both strengthen her characters further, but also to squeeze out of them as much comedy as possible.

The main trouble with ‘Herserlves’ was that for every hilarious character, there were another two that just didn’t quite work to the same level. Anholt’s acting was consistently formidable, but the script she used was unable to deliver laughter for too much of the time. Often, I found myself giving a forced chuckle rather than a genuine laugh, and for much of the time the audience was in the same position. Some of the time it felt like Anholt was making fun of something, but it was not exactly obvious what is was. It isn’t easy to give an example, because a lot of it was so forgettable.

This show is far from the best way to spend an hour at the Fringe, but nor is it particularly painful as this sort of show can sometimes be. Thanks to Maddy Anholt’s talents, there are some diamonds in the rough that make up the bulk of this performance. But overall, this is a show that could do with a bit of work – Anholt undoubtedly has the talents to create a five-star show.

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