Jana and Heidi

Jana and Heidi starts with the blasé observation that Heidi Stransky had seen a comedian at last year’s Fringe Festival and thought “I could do that”, deciding to put together a set with her daughter Jana Kennedy. Unfortunately, not everyone can, or indeed should, try their hand at comedy.

As latecomers arrived, Kennedy provided a summary of the show up to said point. Disappointingly, these summaries were far funnier than the rehearsed comedy.

Coming through an entirely superfluous but fabulously constructed giant vagina, Kennedy and Stransky opened with a good introduction to themselves and their tumultuous relationship. Their set centres on their family life together, to varying success: there was an early tale of the misnaming of a Spanish holiday house due to a misplaced accent, rendering it with a name more suited to a brothel than a second home. This story was told somewhat haltingly: the punchline became increasingly more and more apparent before it was delivered and then fell slightly flat.

However, there were some incredible stories of Stransky’s life up to writing the show, from leaving the Czech Republic as a refugee in the 1940s right through to becoming a successful publicist. The best story from this time involves a bomb scare and the shutting down of the offices of major newspapers and this was well told by Stransky. It would have been good to have more of these stories throughout the show, as opposed to the attempts to fashion jokes from audience interaction.

The problems of the show were revealed early on: as latecomers arrived, Kennedy provided a summary of the show up to said point. Disappointingly, these summaries were far funnier – and indeed Kennedy’s rapport with the audience is lovely throughout – than the rehearsed comedy. There were awkward transitions between sections of the conversation too. In order to introduce the running theme of motherhood, Stransky would read from Where did I come from?, a children’s book, to explain the ins and outs (no pun intended) of sex. Rather than this being humourous, it simply fell  flat and made me question its inclusion.

Whilst some of the comedy might have been awkward, where Jana and Heidi works perfectly is at showing the love and care that exists between mothers and daughters. Their set ends on a lovely note of poignancy and tenderness, exemplifying the rock-solid underbelly of their relationship.

Reviews by Joanna Bowman


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The Blurb

Jana and Heidi have had a 32 year long relationship. There have been highs, lows, infrequent phone calls, frequent cuttings from magazines and emails full of information about next door's cat, together they have made a show! An honest exploration into relationships between mothers and daughters, wanking, fashion choices and tres conchas! Jana is a performer based in Manchester. She has devised this show with her mum (hi mum!) and is thrilled to have development support from The Lowry and Waterside Arts Centre.