Rachel Mars, The Way You Tell Them | Photo: Pollak Menace

A fart joke in the first two minutes – that’s the way to do it! Happy days are here again! Where’s my wolf suit?

Performance artist, writer and erstwhile stand-up comedian Rachel Mars presents – ta-da! – a perfectly pitched show investigating joke-telling and laughter. Brace yourselves for a mad-cap rollercoaster ride that takes you from her Jewish grandfather’s reputation as a wag (although hearing his jokes recounted, Rachel struggles to understand why – it must be the way you tell ‘em) through to her own experiences on London’s comedy circuit doing stand-up in a wolf onesie, via Mighty Mouse and the Ha Ha Bonk Joke Book (which is indeed the best source for Knock Knock jokes). There is a also a running gag, or a comic story in instalments anyway, about a terrible occurrence at a Jewish funeral, which is fantastic, pulling together many typical components of humorous tales: death, cultural differences, losing control of situations and trying to keep a stiff upper lip, worries about social standing etc etc. I won’t spoil say anymore.

But it’s not all laughs, there are serious questions too. What do we find funny and why? Is there anything off-limit, anything we shouldn’t joke about? Paedophilia? Aids? Bomb blasts? Train crashes? Laughter is everywhere, in al human cultures: laughter as an anti-stress release, cruel laughter, laughter that unites, laughter that contradicts the serious notion that there is one agreed reality that we all share…

Rachel Mars has a great onstage persona, and brilliant comic timing. There’s a simple set, the stage furnished with a coffee table and chair and a standard lamp, with nice little scenographic touches that create a theatrical unity between the different onstage elements – red shoes, red notebook, red cushions. There are minimal but good choreographic touches, a wee bit of well-managed audience interaction, and some nice use of on-mic off-mic banter. It has all been gently guided and ably directed by award-winning theatre-maker Jamie Wood – hard to tell where his influence starts and ends as so much of the show is coming from Rachel’s personal experience, but there’s a shape and a structure and a rhythm to it all that gives it an edge over many one-person shows on the Fringe, so whatever the dynamic it’s a winning team. It’s a clever piece of work, because it has the rolling humour and vibrancy of a stand-up act, but it is so much more – a beautifully crafted and brilliantly performed solo theatre piece.

 

The Way You Tell Them was developed with support from the Basement Brighton and CPT London.

www.rachelmars.org

Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior is the editor of Total Theatre Magazine, and is also a performer, writer, dramaturg and choreographer working in theatre, dance, live art and street arts. Under her alter-ego Dorothy’s Shoes she creates performance work that both honours and usurps the traditions of popular dance and theatre, and plays with the relationship between performer and audience. Much of her work is sited in public spaces or in venues other than regular theatres. She is also co-director of street theatre/dance company The Ragroof Players.

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