views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Gap Year
Etcetera Theatre
25th August 2012

★★★☆☆

Having gone straight to university, I assumed Chloe Ward's semi-autobiographical one-woman show Gap Year would be a funny account of how she single-handedly built an orphanage, climbed two of the highest mountains in Europe and discovered a cure for some minor disease. Instead, Gap Year covers Ward's own experiences carrying out several uninspiring jobs, struggling to get her driving licence, auditioning badly and suffering bad date after bad date. This is not what the older students told us they had been doing prior to Freshers' Week...

Ward opens her show with some pre-recorded video clips, before launching into some physical sketches, often playing multiple characters at the same time. She makes use of as many props as she can cram into the intimate space of the Etcetera Theatre and for a grand finale, sings, plays the keyboard and plays the flute. Whilst drumming. Ward is quite clearly prepared to put in the effort to get the laughs, which for the record, she did get from her packed house of receptive audience members.

Some of the annecdotes in Gap Year are refreshingly mundane, such as Ward stuck in a tanning booth, panicking over how to get out. However, as relatable as this makes the show, in places, you can't help but wish Ward had made more use of creative licence. Don't get me wrong, she delivers a very funny 45 minutes of original material. However, with more willingness to embellish real life, Ward could have been even funnier. The real problems come at the end of her sketches, a lot of which could do with a strong punchline. The writing throughout is a nice blend of observational comedy and character study with a hint of Ward's neuroses, but one final zinger would be the icing on the cake.

Ward is a charming, bright and breezy presence, not afraid to cast herself as the figure of fun. For the most part, Ward's interaction with pre-recorded audio is slick, particularly when re-hashing a bad date using a video self to play the other side of the action. It's a clever gimmick that makes the performance much more than just a dull one-woman show or stand-up routine. Thought, time and craftsmanship has gone into this, and it pays dividends.

However, in a game of Articulate, there were some technical glitches, with the words on the projection behind Ward not quite matching up with the words on the cards physically in her hands. The timing was visibily out, which was a shame, but this was but one fault in an otherwise smooth performance.

Ward is definitely a talented performer who delivered a very credible solo show. With some stronger material and a couple more runs under her belt, she could quite easily make the leap between entertaining and humourous to the next Victoria Wood. It's certainly worth catching her if you can and keeping a close eye on what will surely be a promising future.

Gap Year ran from 23rd to 26th August 2012 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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