Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Night of Laughter at EdFringe

This year's EdFringe offers more than 3,000 shows (almost 50,000 performances).  To say that it was difficult to decide which shows to see--even with the guidance of Guardian arts critic Lyn Gardner--is an understatement.  So it came as no surprise when we saw a show that either Wendi or I (and sometimes both of us) thought was a stinker.  And many of the shows I awarded 4 or 5 stars to in our finely honed rating system were well done but dealt with serious subjects or required considerable analysis to try to figure out what had actually happened.  And so it was a treat to see back-to-back laugh out loud shows one evening.

Lotto's "Nativity" (1523)
Hannah Gadsby: The Exhibitionist -- Gadsby is an Australian comedian who was billed as "bringing her love of art into the prime time with a look at portraits, propaganda and show offs."   How could I resist?  

We learned at the outset that Gadbsy had studied art history and curatorship in Australia (which she recognized was chuckle-worthy in and of itself).  She then offered us a series of "unnecessary observations" about a variety of paintings and photographs with an accompanying slide show.  

Take, for instance, Lorenzo Lotto's "Nativity."  Your eye is drawn to Mary and Joseph looking adoringly at the baby Jesus.  What you might not notice is the crucifix in the background of the painting.  "Isn't that a bit insensitive?" Gadsby asked. 

Goya's "Portrait of the Duchess
of Alba" (1797)
She later shared Goya's famous "Portrait of the Duchess of Alba."  Not to put words in the sitter's mouth, but it does seem--at least to Gadsby--that the Duchess is inordinately excited about her new shoes.  

Gadsby segued into a showcase of family portraits with hilarious commentary.  (The inspiration for the show was her mother's gift of a shopping bag filled with her pictures of Gadsby.  While she is happy to have them, she did wonder what motivated her mother to decide that she didn't need those memories any more.)  My favorite was a picture that she claimed to be the only one of her as a baby, a shot that cut her off mid-face.  Her thoughts?  We'll never know if she was a cute baby, but she was definitely long.

My score:  4 stars (I loved it and highly recommend it)

Matt Tedford as Maggie
Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho:  Wendi and I generally avoided shows about UK political issues/personalities (like the upcoming Scottish independence vote).  It's hard enough to understand what's going on in our own political system, much less someone else's.  But people were abuzz about how much fun Maggie Queen of Soho was, so we decided to give it a whirl.  After all, how often do you get the chance to see a drag queen impersonating a former prime minister?

This high energy show had us in stitches from start to finish.  A sell-out crowd piled into the Assembly Garden theater to the inevitable sound of the Village People's "YMCA."  Everyone was dancing in their seats when Maggie took the stage, accompanied by her two shorty-short wearing male sidekicks.

The show was part musical revue, part comedy revolving around the issue of Section 28, a British law that prohibited the promotion of homosexuality--or homosexuality as a "pretended family relationship"--in schools.  (The law was repealed in 2000.)   The use of songs in the show was brilliant.  Perhaps my favorite bits were at the beginning when Thatcher mentioned the topics that would not be discussed that evening.  Single parenthood (to the tune of Ace of Base's "All That She Wants [is another baby]") would be left for another day.  So would the war in the Falklands ("Don't Cry for Me, Argentina").

Bananarama's lyrics in its ever-popular (???) song "Venus" -- "She's got it, Yeah, baby, she's got it"  -- were reflective of the sentiment of the house.  Matt Tedman does, indeed, have it in his portrayal of Maggie Queen of Soho.

My score:  3 1/2 stars (really enjoyed it and recommend it)




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