Felicity Ward: 50% More Likely to Die
Avoiding the standard Fringe tropes with a killer show that elevates this Aussie comic
How did we get here? This is what you'll think while watching the latest tremendous show by Australian Felicity Ward. How did we get so deep into the dynamics of reality TV makeover shows? Or the etiquette of swimming pool lane speeds? Or suicide rates among builders!? Weren't we supposed to be finding out what happened to the bag Ward left on the bus during the London rush hour?
That's what you'll think, if you've got time to think at all. The pace of this hour is unrelenting. It's a garishly colourful tapestry of pin-sharp comic observations, thoughtful discussion around mental health and euphoric squawking (there is literally a lot of squawking) that's so beautifully woven together that, if you could find space between great big snorting exhortations of comic laughter, you would surely gasp.
Ward is such a generous performer. She's honest in talking about her struggle with anxiety, but not overly earnest in trying to make you understand it. We all have our place on some kind of spectrum is what you come to realise, quite organically, while delighting in Ward's version of Rihanna's 'Work', performed in the style of a chicken.
And she's so bloody funny, without recourse to those well-worn touchstones of Fringe comedy. There's no surly offensiveness, no mannered gloominess or ostentatious surrealism. It's just a woman looking at her life through a prism entirely of her own making, and finding something to laugh at in every aspect. Her parents: 'Pathologically resistant to information.' Her clothes: 'I'm just grateful I have a pocket … and it's real.' Her friends' insistence that Britain has a summer: 'It's like you're in an abusive relationship with your own weather!'
Factor in her intense likeability, and the audience is only too happy to make any number of mental pitstops with Ward on her way towards concluding the bag story. The bigger picture is that Felicity Ward is only a year or two away from becoming one of the most popular people on the Fringe. This single hour represents an even rarer kind of journey, however: one that feels too short.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug (not 15), 9pm, £10–£13.50 (£9–£12.50).