After a recent a run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Emma Packer Show has come to London for a short tour of free performances. It is a one woman, multi character show with multiple costume changes, combined with pre-recorded video clips that forms part of the show – and also fills time while Ms Packer changes from one character to the next.
And what characters! From the overly excitable Beverly that starts the show to the snotty overly confident sales woman Suzanna Cavanagh, with her slogan ‘Tupperware is is not just for Christmas, it’s for life’. They all have one thing in common – they are stereotypes that are a bit dumb and a bit mean.
Emma Packer is a great character actor. For every creation she seemed entirely like a different person, with different accents, voice pitch changes and embodying the persona with her whole self, which is fascinating to watch. But most of her characters are very unlikeable. She plays with stereotypes of chavs, librarians and throws in some casual racism for laughs, and it’s all played very much in your face.
The show relies heavily on audience participation. Every character communicates directly with the audience, asking questions and at one point more or less bullying them. One character went through the room and decided which ones of us were sluts, and making fun of an audience member’s hair. It’s a type of humour that not everyone enjoys, and one of the characters rightly pointed out that my friend looked like she was terrified that she would talk to her. Audience interaction requires a lot of ad-libbing and thinking on your feet, something Packer does really well. But is it funny to spend so much time making fun of your audience? To me, it’s more embarrassing than anything else.
This style of comedy does have its fans, a row of women were seeing it for the fifth time and were laughing up a storm and were really enjoying themselves. They were of course targeted heavily and seemed to enjoy the attention. On the other hand, one audience member fell asleep. The rest of us seemed to be somewhere in the middle, laughing at the good parts and hoping she wouldn’t pick on us next.
Compared to the shallow, mean nature of most of the characters we met, one character, rapper Amy, was all the more real and engaging. She spoke in rhyme about her big crush on an elderly celebrity, and there was a sweet innocence to her that made me smile. Amy was the most interesting part of the show, and I would happily spend more time in her company.
In the end though, as much as we enjoyed moments of the show, overall it doesn’t seem entirely suited for the theatre. The costume changes, while impressively quick, do still cause a drop in energy that no video sketch can manage to pick up. The characters need a bit of work, but with some polishing I can see this concept working as a television show. And indeed we get an inkling of what that would be like with the video clips shown during the costume changes, where each character has room to evolve with change and a storyline, like the slightly mental Riverdancing woman searching for her daddy. The clips work really well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see The Emma Packer Show on the small screen one day.
Review by Tori Jo Lau
You can follow Emma Packer on Twitter @Packemania
Tuesday 12th November 2013