Beth Vyse: As Funny as Cancer

Beth Vyse’s show opens in a truly Fringe fashion: handing out ping pong balls to the audience, dressed in a voluminous blonde wig and a huge pair of joke-shop boobs, singing along to Dolly Parton. This is Vyse’s dream-world, a land where all her wishes have come true and a far cry from the reality of her hard-hitting one woman show. It’s a daunting opener which does jarr slightly with the tone of the performance overall, but it certainly gets the show’s penchant for the surreal across quickly.

Vyse is well worth a watch as an endearing performer with an important story to tell.

Propelled from her dream state, Vyse explodes onto the stage and transitions from her exaggerated dream-self to a far more down to earth performer. Vyse’s skills of storytelling are fine-tuned, as evidenced by her background as a performer for RSC. The anecdotes related by Vyse have a star quality without feeling like she’s bragging: instead here’s a life which has touched many others, and it’s truly interesting to hear how from a girl who hails from the smaller-than-life Stoke on Trent.

At once homely and fantastical, Vyse uses some touches of surrealism to drag her audience members into the story she weaves. These segments of course rely on receptive members of the public to play along- we’re lucky today and treated to a smooth performance, and it’s great to see how Vyse is happy to ad-lib and accommodate her temporary co-performers. During one of these sections that Vyse drops the first of her bombshells in this show. Spoilers: here’s where cancer comes into the story.

Vyse does well to handle an incredibly personal experience and convey it whilst still providing a funny take on the process behind tests, treatments and the endless staying power of her parents. The overwhelming tone of the piece is a peaceful one: Vyse has a distance from her experiences which stops the performance from feeling too raw, and the old formula of tragedy plus time comes into play to pitch her humour well. There’s a hopeful segment at the end of the show, after Vyse has taken us on a hell of an emotional rollercoaster. It’s certainly not laugh a minute, and the humour gets a little bizarre, but Vyse is well worth a watch as an endearing performer with an important story to tell. 

Reviews by Louise Jones

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Performances

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The Blurb

Vyse is back with an extraordinary look at her battle with breast cancer. 'But then, as comedians go, Beth doesn't have much time for the expected' (Guardian). Barry Awards Best Show nomination. Hear the tale of her Stoke-on-Trent family, her time with Nelson Mandela, acting and thieving at the Royal Shakespeare Company, settling down with Michael Jackson and finding cancer. And all before the age of 30! 'She has the verve, the charisma and the honesty to get the job done' **** (Chortle.co.uk). 'Visionary piece of genre-fusing theatre on surviving cancer' **** (Stage).

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