'One Woman Show' review — Liz Kingsman is a comedy superstar
“It’s December, so we need to decide which woman will be successful in theatre this year,” proclaims the unnamed woman on stage. With a knowing look to her audience on its press night, this woman knows what she wants. Fame. Success. Good reviews. Can this woman write her success story?
If we’re talking about Liz Kingsman finding success with One Woman Show, then definitely. The comedy darling took over Soho Theatre and the Edinburgh Fringe with her raucous dismantling of millennial storytelling. Now, Kingsman brings her 70-minute monologue to the Ambassadors Theatre, injecting fresh female drama to the West End (“it’s only me and Agatha Christie”, says the woman.)
The play-within-a-play sees a late-20-something woman creating Wildfowl, a Bridget Jones-inspired romantic TV comedy about a woman’s journey for love in modern-day London. As she falls for Phil, an Adonis-like colleague, she eventually shows herself up as a silly goose. The woman wants to attract a TV commissioner, but they don’t turn up, so she must record it.
Wildfowl, and in turn One Woman Show, ticks off all the tropes you’d expect from a coming-of-age story: a bad job, allusions to filthy sex, and to coin Kingsman’s phrase, “white girl spoken word”. But at every moment, Kingsman spins the expected on its head, and the end result is a farcical takedown of British culture with more meta-references than tube stations.
There’s no denying Kingsman is a comedy superstar. Bouncing onto stage dressed like a Blue Peter presenter, her versatility shows as she deftly switches from silly stories to profound speeches told by different characters in seconds. Adam Brace’s direction lets her adept writing skills shine — the pairing of Kingsman’s goofy lines with her deadpan delivery ensure a laugh a minute. Every meticulous eyebrow raise, titter, and scowl are all played at the right self-deprecating level without going over the top.
Daniel Carter Brennan’s crafted lighting design adds to the tropes: "bisexual lighting" red and blue tones for sex scenes, and the warm orange hues for the “memories.” Max Perryment’s sound design bounces us from "Rock Bottom" clubs to the bedroom with a note of Grammarly for good measure. Joshua Lay’s balletic choreography adds to the Wildfowl absurdity — who knew a dancing plant would receive a standing ovation?
As a result of its West End run, One Woman Show now falls into the traps of its mocked predecessors; if you’re not familiar with London references and the theatre scene, chances are you might not get “it.” And at points, “scenes” between the crew and herself halted the flow for a few moments too long, sadly popping the Wildfowl bubble.
Look, as a London-based woman in my mid-20s, this play speaks to me. It's a love letter to the likes of Dolly Alderton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and celebrates the sexy, aloof qualities in women while ripping up the rulebook. If there's one woman I want telling this type of story in the West End right now, then it's Liz Kingsman.
All throughout Wildfowl, the unnamed woman professes her interest in getting this show to television. Let's hope it gets there.
One Woman Show is at the Ambassadors Theatre through 21 January. Book One Woman Show tickets on London Theatre.
*Photo credit: Liz Kingsman (Photo by TK)
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