Female Personality of the Year

Wed 29th October – Sat 1st November 2014

reviews

Isobel Cockerell

at 11:08 on 30th Oct 2014

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Let’s first just clarify that ‘Female Personality of the Year’ is not a real awards ceremony. Before curtain-up, there was some confusion among the audience about what they were about to see. Then the scene is set: Channel 4 has given an hour primetime slot (how generous) entirely over to women. They have been ‘battling it out’ for the last few weeks and tonight we will see who will be crowned.

Hosted by the ebullient Katie Old (Helen Charman), with her dulcet Kirsty Young tones, (see what they did there?) she begins by asking her panel some infuriating questions successful women get constantly plagued with. ‘Motherhood’, having it all, and so on. Things descend from there and the next hour is fraught with hilarious tension as these women constantly attempt to one up each other.

Our ‘influential’ finalists include TV don Valerie Davis, a wonderfully self-involved art historian, played by Jess Franklin. Next, a pan-European popsinger, Kooky Lund (Catriona Stirling), who doesn’t say much, but perhaps gets the biggest laughs. She does a unique musical performance plucking on her violin. The ADC cried with laughter. Then we have a television cook from Dundee, Dolly (Ellen Robertson). Special mention goes to Dolly for her quietly inspired outfit. Her charity shop dress and bottle-cap earrings teamed with sneakers make for an appalling ensemble, perfectly complementing her Blue Peter personality. She really is awful. And finally, Olivia Le Andersen plays a (female) City hero, Ruth Sharp. She’s Danish, she’s tough. She steadily makes her way through a bottle of white as things unfold. She is reduced from power-dresser to burping wreck, slumped in the corner, slurring profanities.

There is a searing familiarity about all the characters but the writing is absolutely original – never does it descend into stereotype. The cast, guided by Mollie Wintle, wrote the script themselves, and as such the actors absolutely embody their own uniquely-crafted characters.

The show is punctuated by adverts for Weightwatchers and women’s car insurance. There was a consensus afterwards that the ads were really the pinnacle of the whole thing. But after fifty minutes of dizzying hilarity and debauchery, the show comes to a brilliant, anti-climactic end. These women have had their hour in the spotlight, and now it’s time for them to be shooed off set. This is some of the most intelligent, exciting new writing in Cambridge.The show is absolutely unique and thought provoking. The wit is sparkling. Riotous laughter erupts as soon as the lights go up. Run, RUN to the ADC box office - you don't want to miss this one.

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Camilla Seale

at 13:17 on 30th Oct 2014

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ADC late show this week, Female Personality of the Year gives you an hour of competitive femininity, set up as a contestant/chat show. A mixture of near absurd and ‘yes-that’s-so-true’ laughter, this show does a pretty good job of making female experience hilarious without reducing its complexity.

With ‘women in the media as its topic’, writers Mollie Wintle, Emma Wilkinson and the cast took full advantage of the wealth of pop culture material at their fingertips: musical interludes of Adele, a reworking of that famous Mean Girls moment when Lindsay Lohan breaks the homecoming queen crown, and ever more ironic and frighteningly accurate ad breaks for weightwatchers and girl beer.

The tirade on glass blowers from Olivia Le Andersen was particularly enjoyable – ‘those women’, says overachiever and neglectful mother Ruth, ‘creating their own glass ceiling’ – she cites Emma Watson’s recent UN speech, incomplete without teary glances.

The actors shone individually more than they gelled as an ensemble, although that may have been the natural result of giving ego centre stage. Each character study was utterly original yet strangely familiar. Jess Franklin exuded relaxed confidence in her role as narcissistic art writer and presenter, Valerie; Cat Stirling’s performance of Kookie Lund – what might be described as Lady Gaga post-lobotomy – provided an interesting counterpoint to the overachievers on the other sofa: ‘Do not talk to me about origins. I am the origin’, and Helen Charman as presenter, Katie Old, nailed her delivery of underhand comments to the contestants.

It looks like we still need comedy about being female, and that’s ok. So, with the audience in the palm of their hand, it was a shame to see such sharp, relentless wit and playful tension descend over-hastily into angry bitch fest, or even farce, with the characters overextending into self-parody.

The entrance of The Man after the cameras were cut occupied an ambiguous space between polemic and dramatically necessary. It was frustrating, depending on one’s politics perhaps, to watch generic man calming down the overexcited females. His message, ‘When someone gives you something, try not to fuck it up’ struck an unintended ironic note; if it was a serious point (not just the only way out of the volcano) then go further, give him some real stage time. That aside, this show is an absolute gem for Cambridge comedy and for things-about-women. I look forward to more biting wit from both the writers and the ensemble cast.

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