There’s a specific challenge involved when reviewing autobiographical shows surrounding horrendous personal suffering, in this case performer Karen Hobbs’ diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer. One the one hand, you can’t deny the inherent bravery and honesty that went into making
The material is ripe for gentle mockery. After all, humans do ridiculous things when forced to face their mortality
Hobbs has no difficulty in finding the ridiculous in her pain, as she readily admits, recounting us with tales of being stuck in a MRI scanner for three hours with Bad Day by Daniel Powter blaring and being rejected for TV interviews for ‘having too much hair for a cancer sufferer’. The material is ripe for gentle mockery. After all, humans do ridiculous things when forced to face their mortality. But Hobbs seems to be finding her feet as a performer to make it all work.
While her nervous energy makes her an endearing force to the audience, it also means that she has a tendency to rush ahead and doesn’t give the audience enough time and space to laugh, meaning that a few too many jokes end up falling flat. It’s a shame because it’s clear that with some more time and experience she’ll also grow in confidence in herself to just let the story shine and the comedy emerge naturally. However she also proves herself to be a distinctly imaginative theatre maker, employing a whole host of weird and wacky props to pepper her sometimes surreal stories. Special credit must also be giving to the sound and lighting designers for using minimalistic tech to maximum effect, perfectly evoking just the right mood and atmosphere for Hobbs’ performance.
On the whole it’s a strong concept and Hobbs is clever and self-aware enough to see the funny side of her story, while also not letting us ignore the tough side of living with cancer. Give her a bit of time to practise and it’s sure to be fantastic.