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Bryony Twydle: Work in Progress
Etcetera Theatre
10th August 2016

★★★★★

Bryony Twydle

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

Don't you just hate it when someone tacks "Work in Progress" to the end of their show name when actually, they've nailed it already? Actually, no, wait, we love it when we come across an unexpected gem like that. Sorry. It's just all been a bit confusing, we were expecting something a little rough around the edges and instead appear to have stumbled upon The Next Big Thing. Co-written with Tristan Rogers, Bryony Twydle's old comedy mate from sketch group The Jest, Bryony Twydle: Work in Progress is a one-woman comedy show with some great material, sharp comic timing, fleshed-out characterisation and thoughtful design. Rogers and Twydle aren't fooling anyone who's seen this already. Work in Progress? Ha!

The gloriously talented Twydle plays six very different people: Vicky, a speed awareness instructor; Lisa, a QVC presenter; Hector, a privileged little schoolboy; Ruby, a strangely mermaid-esque business guru; Ulva, a sex therapist; and Susan, a rather bitter pub landlady. Watching Twydle perform is like watching a tightly-edited showreel. She covers some wildly different parts and accents, with her vocal journey around the world taking her from North England to Australia. Whilst Twydle plays timeless characters, you can't help but suspect she would be excellent at celebrity impersonations too. She apparently intends to take her show to next year's Edinburgh Fringe, which probably explains why she's kept her characters as generic as they are.

The six characters have very little in common and once discarded, they're gone forever, with Twydle moving onto another plausibly implausible persona. Wearing a black leotard, Twydle shrugs off and on additional pieces of clothing to transform herself into each new person. These fast-paced costume changes are all sheltered by a partial blackout with some thoughtfully chosen music to bridge the gap. There are no awkward silences in the transitions from sketch to sketch.

A huge amount of preparation has clearly gone into establishing each character. There are clever little nuggets of black comedy arising from Hector's abandonment outside the school gates by his posh parents, Lisa's desperation to flog any old tat and Ruby's lack of own business success. Although every persona has been created as a figure of fun at whom we can laugh openly, they're more rounded than mere caricatures, with this level of detail ramping up the hilarity. We burst out into laughter frequently, with Twydle's wickedly funny lines catching us off-guard.

When it comes to live comedy, everyone always likes a bit of audience participation, provided they're not the ones actually participating. Twydle plays on this inherently British Schadenfreude, bringing people up on stage for what could potentially turn out to be car crash moments (quite literally for one sketch) but never actually humiliating anyone. She may be willing to do anything for a laugh, however she doesn't impose the same standards on her audience. The sheer anticipation of someone else's embarrassment leads to plenty of chuckles, especially during the sex therapist sketch, yet whilst Twydle pushes her "guest stars" as far as possible, she never crosses that line, and makes sure they're still having fun.

A sure-fire quick-fire Camden Fringe hit, Bryony Twydle: Work in Progress is an unmissable 45 minutes of comedy gold. Those chumps up in Edinburgh at the moment don't know what they're missing. Well, there's always next year...

Bryony Twydle: Work in Progress opened on 10th August and runs until 12th August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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