Louise Ford’s character Jenny Fawcett has an earnest, alarming smile, slightly mad eyes behind unsexy specs and a gurgling voice. She reminds me of a schoolgirl or, more specifically, of Shirley Henderson’s Moaning Myrtle. She’s also hilarious.
Tap dancing features heavily in Jenny’s show. The first embarrassingly enthusiastic bout transports us to the day her graceless dancing won her a talent competition on a cruise ship. Confronting specific audience members with their own names is a familiar trick for a comedy act that seeks to unsettle. When Jenny Fawcett, towelling her armpits down after this first intense burst of tap, looks up and says, ‘aright Ben?’, it’s the best I’ve ever seen it done.
The talent show anecdote is just one in the brilliantly bizarre array of stories Jenny recounts for us. They often spiral in enjoyably unpredictable directions; a description of her degenerate uncle leads to a particularly amusing role-play on a Japanese train. Her anecdotes are also frequently interrupted by equally curious digressions - ‘anyway, that’s by the by’ is a bit of a catchphrase. If Jenny were real, she would be unbearably frustrating. As a character act, I loved her.
Jenny is very plucky - the sort of person who’s not afraid to touch an audience member’s bum. Several audience members’ bums, even. If her appearance and chirpiness are reminiscent of a schoolgirl, Fawcett’s strictness - ‘Ben, I’m not sure you’re getting it’ - is more like a trainee teacher. The multi-faceted Jenny is by no means a realistic character, but she is fantastically funny.
Given the high standard of the wit, I found Jenny unnecessary clownish at times. Granted, a lot of her funny faces are funny: the demonstration of the time she fell in love ‘while eating an orange like an apple’ is both gross and irresistibly funny. However, Ford doesn’t need to resort quite so frequently to sticking out her tongue, simply because she can do better. Jenny Fawcett is a fantastically imaginative and witty creation. You should definitely go and meet her.