It’s not uncommon for comedians to talk about their lives to date in a show. But Abbie Murphy has lived quite the life – a quick Google search (other search engines are available) has her down as a ‘film actor’. There is talk in this show, Eat Sleep Shit Shag, about her experiences in Bollywood, but it’s mostly about how (un)glamorous the showbusiness life is, particularly as an entertainer singing and dancing on cruise ships. In most professions, colleagues share a space for five days out of seven – in theatres, it is often six. On cruise ships, by definition, it’s night and day, every day. Not only that, but the likes of Murphy must put up with ridiculous queries – one passenger apparently wanted to know if a staircase went up as well as down.
Dressed in a very flamboyant hat, which she valiantly wears right to the end, Murphy also discusses the pros and cons of self-employment. “You need the others,” she reflects, having quickly realised that the term ‘self-employment’ does not imply that one is independent. Parts of the show were something of a revelation for yours truly: I have a better understanding of why it is that Equity, which calls itself rather pretentiously “the trade union for creative practitioners”, take umbrage with HM Revenue & Customs for their assessments and calculations. The details are as dull and technical as one would expect, but essentially they use earnings in the current tax year to estimate earnings in the following tax year, and then make a tax demand on that basis, such that if a performer has a particularly good year in terms of income, it is assumed the following year will be the same, which as everyone (apart from HMRC) knows, is not necessarily the case.
There’s some insight, too, into Murphy’s formative years, and it’s repeatedly emphasised that the audience must lower their expectations of how cultured they expect this show to be. Having suitably forewarned everyone, the gate is thus opened for toilet humour. A good moment of audience rapport came in the form of asking someone went they last ‘went’: dancers must maintain excellent bowel control as nobody should see what they don’t need or indeed want to see when doing high kicks or the splits.
Once, somebody died during a performance she and others were giving on a cruise ship – and she is thus unconcerned about whether we’re chortling away or not. “Still breathing” is good enough. What else? There was a recollection of a trip her younger self took to Kos, in Greece, the kind of destination frequented by 18-30s clubbing and drinking well into the night. Never mind ‘TOWIE’, this is what a real Essex lady is like – yes, the accent is strong but so is the perception, charisma and confidence.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Tales of youth, growing up in Essex/suburbia, unique anecdotes from a professional dance career, and life now as an ex-showgirl, resurface and collide as she attempts to live her best life. Becoming increasingly aware of her mortality results in a darkly wry Abbie trying to figure out what her next move is – in a bid to reach the seemingly unattainable, and enviable, state of contentment.
Observational comedy, relatable for the many and not for the few!
ABBIE MURPHY: EAT SLEEP SHIT SHAG
31 st July – 25th August 2019