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Esther Manito: Hell Hath No Fury at Soho Theatre

Esther Manito is funny. Launching a stand-up tour that will run until mid-October, she kicked off Hell Hath No Fury at the Soho Theatre and scored some major belly laughs from the crowd (who seemed a tad more ITV1 than the Soho usuals but it looked like everyone was won over). Her new set is themed around the double standards to which women are held and how being shackled by unrealistic expectations is crazy-making. She is of course right and her observations are not especially radical. Regardless, as a storyteller, she is more than amusing and the show is cheering and diverting.

EstherManito - Photo Credit Karla Gowlett.
EstherManito – Photo Credit Karla Gowlett.

Her set packs a lot of material into a dense hour – possibly just a little too much – but I think as she relaxes into the rhythm of it on tour it will breathe more and find even more funny. Although billed as an act of feminism, Manito’s observations are mostly pretty gentle – in a Motherland kind of way – which I suspect is rightly tuned to the telly-informed mainstream audience she’s likely to encounter on this tour. Despite its title, some of Manito’s best gags revolve around her father and her experience as a non-celebrity working comedian. I wondered if these bits have been seasoned longer thus making the rendition, mimicry and timing better honed. As a performer, Manito occasionally adopts brilliant impersonation and fills the space with charisma – yet there are other tellings that feel like they’re still a little stuck on the page and need more rehearsal. For example, she conveys the malapropisms of her father, the awkwardness of James (a gentle advert producer) and a concerned physician via all manner of accents, body language and pacing. But there are other – truly hilarious – stories involving a cruise ship for which she doesn’t attempt the accents or mannerisms which makes it seem a little undercooked in contrast. I suspect, however, that with a bit of time and space, this already strong show will develop further.

Hell Hath No Fury isn’t particularly hellish or furious – it is neither wildly absurd nor especially controversial, but it’s very funny in an almost pre-watershed way and provides an excellent hour of entertainment.

4 stars

Review by Mary Beer

Furious at the state of the world. At being considered dead at 40. At online comments. And, in her brand new stand-up show, she’s furiously funny.

Anger is not a good quality in a woman (scorned or otherwise). Or so Esther has always been told. When a woman is angry, she’s labelled ‘hysterical’ or ‘hormonal’. When a man’s enraged, he’s praised for being ‘passionate’ and ‘opinionated’.

Esther Manito: Hell Hath No Fury
Thu 17 – Sat 19 Aug 23

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  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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