saints and sinners of the stage and screen
saints and sinners of the stage and screen
The Wrong Side of Right
The Phoenix Artist Club
4th August 2013
Photography supplied by Simone Watson
Personal tales (whether true or not) with a universal relatability have been the backbone of stand-up for years. Whether that's in the style of Dave Gorman's challenges, Ronnie Corbett's monologues or another dreary Michael McIntyre anecdote about his man drawer or something. Recently, though, something else has been gaining momentum - the stories have moved out of the sphere of anecdotal and into the realms of the confessional. Of course this has always existed, but Mark Thomas' Bravo Figaro - on his father's love of opera - or even Daniel Kitson slipping some into After The Beginning, Before the End - have really brought it to the fore.
Now there's a new kid on the block in the shape of ruthlessly endearing Danielle Meehan. I say ruthlessly, because if you don't find her endearing, she will beat you into submission until you do. In a good way, of course. Based on her own experiences as a jobbing actress (she played a stripper in EastEnders once), this one-woman comic show is a constantly changing rant about the hurdles she faces having the London accent that she does, and the preconceptions and stereotypes of others too. She and director Simone Watson do so in a way that is both blasé but makes a more serious point underneath - on the way paralleling Tim Minchin's song Prejudice, about being ginger. At its heart, it's no laughing matter as she touches on the way in which the Welsh and Northern Irish are frequently treated, but she makes it one.
Starting the show with a delightfully incompetent hyper-sexualised Marilyn Monroe audition, Meehan sends both the industry and herself up. Her physical comedy is very good indeed, as she gurns, stumbles and mutters away in an attempt to seduce. From the outset, she breaks down the barriers with the audience, inviting us into her world in a conspiratorial fashion, revealing her past, her trouble at drama school and the fact that she's single. Repeatedly. It skirts dangerously, but amusingly, close to an episode of Take Me Out. She's also delightfully shameless, changing clothes front and centre while attempting (slightly unsuccessfully) to keep her modesty. And modest and self-deprecating she most certainly is, while also keenly knowing that she isn't as unattractive or incompetent as she makes out. If you've got it, flaunt it, and in parts - such as a sexy Bo Peep audition - she does.
But it's her over-reliance on the physical comedy that becomes a sticking point later on. It's all well and good having set pieces - a great skype call with her "mother" for example - but if a lot of your persona is to mutter amusing asides to yourself, only half-heard by the audience, then they ain't all gonna hit the target. In this mix of character comedy, monologue, sketches and poetry, there could be more traditional set-up and punchline jokes thrown in. Frequently, Meehan attempts to gain laughs by just pulling a face - and this is fine. But these chuckles should be garnered in addition to the writing.
It's absolutely crystal that Meehan can write too - poetically, seriously and comically. The beat poem on which a lot of the show rests is thoughtful, with a few cheeky rhyme structures aside from the wordplay that keep a smile on your face. A tale about her father's funeral was delivered without any of the previous tics or gurning, so honestly and soulfully that it reduced one audience member to tears. And when she hits the mark with gags, she does deliver. She's a keen, quick-witted improviser which helped cover a myriad technical gremlins that unfortunately beset the piece. When you rely so heavily on multimedia - filmed segments, photos, pre-recorded audio - it's essential to have it all down pat. But this was their first show at a new venue, and we'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Part confessional stand-up, part beat poem and part political rally, what really matters is that Meehan was never less than magnetic. Even if the laughs don't always come thick and fast, you really can't help being bowled over by her enthusiasm, honesty, wit and charm. This was her debut show, we sincerely hope it won't be her last.
The Wrong Side of Right ran from 4th to 8th August 2013, as part of the Camden Fringe. We don't know for how much longer she'll be single though...
Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern, Central)