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Review of The Very Perry Show at The Hope Theatre London N1

Kate Perry
Kate Perry

I have no idea how true to life the characters Kate Perry has ‘collected’ are in The Very Perry Show. I recall the 2008 feature film A Complete History of My Sexual Failures, in which its writer and central character, Chris Waitt, was threatened with legal action if certain people he was once acquainted with were even alluded to in the film, which immediately made the project’s title inept. This, in any event, is a series of vivid but always pleasant monologues. I am grateful each part is played in its entirety before moving respectably onto the next – so often, shows of this nature are made unnecessarily complicated, and exhausting for both performer and audience, by flitting between characters, narratives and timelines, rather like the channel-hopping Carmel that the show starts with.

It’s like watching Mrs Brown’s Boys but without all the profanity. Carmel, who hails from Northern Ireland (as does Kate Perry, funnily enough) has a warped sense of humour so left-field it only reminds the audience that this is, at the end of the day, something of a stand-up comedy act: she misses The Troubles, she says, because people joined together and supported one another back then – there isn’t, apparently, the same sense of community and belonging there was before. I can sort of see where she’s coming from (people in England still talk about the ‘Dunkirk spirit’) but, goodness me, much of this story needs to be taken with more than a pinch of salt.

The septuagenarian Carmel gives way to twelve-year-old Susie Hedley-Simmons, a well-to-do north Londoner, who maintains a personal diary, broadly in the style of the Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend, though her largely incapacitated mother (for reasons explained in the story) and absent father (for reasons unexplained) means she gets up to mischief – she wouldn’t have been out of place, apart from her tender age, amongst the retired men in the BBC Television series Last of the Summer Wine.

Maddie Melarkey continues a running theme of amiable but hapless characters, with an elaborate setup regarding a relative’s hospital bed leading to a truly laugh-out-loud climax. All this is done with just a few props, but no set, no accompanying score, and no sound effects to assist, just a few lighting cues. It stands or falls almost purely on its script and the performance. Both are a delight, and each of the stories told has an element of refreshing unpredictability about them.

‘Wee Brigit’ is the love-to-hate character, the prepubescent girl who incessantly talks on a long-haul flight, such that there is no escape for anyone within earshot. I would, ordinarily, intensely dislike such characters with unbridled passion, but Perry’s portrayal of her with such charming cuteness almost – almost – warmed me to this one. Rounding off this quintet of monologues is an intriguing look at the Amish community. Mary Peachy-Bender’s story could well be expanded upon to become a show all on its own; the audience here is treated to just a glimpse of living, or trying to live, in a way that conforms to outmoded traditional values from the Reformation in such a modern and technological era.

Overall, this is a gentle and delightful production. An absolute pleasure to see.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The Very Perry Show is a happy hour of comic monologues inspired by people Perry has ‘collected’ along the way, each one portrayed with chameleon like skill, humour and charm. A wooden spoon, a pair of goggles or a can of WD40 bring Perry’s characters to life with ample doses of humour and effortless transformations. The result is an evening of fresh comic writing that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. Perry’s characterisations of her hilarious sketches have enthralled audiences in Ireland, London, Edinburgh and San Francisco. It’s going to be a Very Perry experience!

The Very Perry Show
writer & performer: KATE PERRY / director: SARAH MEADOWS
5, 6, 12 & 13 March 7.45pm

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