For many people, even in this age of enlightenment, discussing mental health issues is something of a taboo. Sophia Del Pizzo has no such concerns and has written, produced, directed, performed and generally single-handedly, made happen a show about exactly that. And not just mental health issues but her own mental health issues. Bold isn’t the word.
Assmonkey: In Conversation is a multi-media production in the truest sense of the word. And also, a one-woman show in the truest sense of the word. Del Pizzo is in equal parts stand-up comedian, motivational speaker, singer/songwriter, impressionist, character actor, video editor and more. And all of these elements have a part to play in this rainbow-carousel of a show.
In some ways, the performance is in sketches and could be considered to be following in the proud traditions of Smack The Pony or Goodness Gracious Me (I wanted to say The Fast Show but they were never really multi-media) but in another sense the show has a very real central theme and sticks with it throughout – flying in the face of the traditional sketch show ‘moment-by-moment’ feel.
It’s the underlying theme of Anxiety and Depression that makes me wonder if the constant moving, challenging nature of the show is designed to be a little unsettling and to stop you getting too comfortable. Just as Del Pizzo herself says she feels uncomfortable in many social situations.
That being said, some elements felt a little rushed and it would have been nice to see some of the sections, particularly those of a more insightful and philosophical nature, expanded on further and given full exposition.
There are too many scenes or sketches to describe, nor would I – for fear of spoiling the surprise, but some highlights for me were Del Pizzo’s therapy session with an audience member (including Rorschach test), her anti-narcotic themed remix of Rick Astley (PRS paid as she humorously highlighted) and her personification of her anxiety (Assmonkey, of course) throughout the show that led to her actual conversation with ‘it’ in a video interview that I’m certain nobody was expecting.
Through the use of plastic trees, a whiteboard and a large LCD Screen, Del Pizzo carves out a section of the stage, giving herself room to move without being lost in an overly large open space, and I feel like she dominated that space and made it her own. This layout served the dual purpose of providing her a secluded changing space while using the LCD screen and audio to keep the audience engaged While that did feel a little drawn out at times, it fits in with the sketch show style and the segues used in that genre.
Overall, this is a feel-good production with highlights and laugh-out-loud moments but the serious message is for us to look after ourselves and each other – an admirable thing to promote.
Assmonkey: In Conversation offers so much in so little time that I find it hard to believe that anyone could attend without warming to it. I hope that Del Pizzo takes some of the best of the lightly touched on elements and brings them each out into the limelight in the future.
Review by Damien Russell
ASSMONKEY: In Conversation is an honest, interactive and upfront comedy about anxiety, depression and wanking. Hear this, what if you were to make friends with your anxiety, what name would it have? Would it have an accent or wear a beret?
The show merges comedy genres through stand up, spoken work, silly songs and character work. Along the way you’ll encounter some hilarious renditions of personalities from Sophia’s past from doctors to yoga teachers, you’ll take part in a group meditation, but don’t rely on it being relaxing. Be prepared to learn a LOT about Sophia and maybe a little about yourself.
This heartwarmingly honest show takes you on an uplifting journey from addiction to self help and wellbeing, abetted by some scientific research and years of collected conversations with therapists and yoga “gurus”.
7 — 11 Feb 2018