Review: The Very Perry Show...

The best thing about The Very Perry Show, brought to life by Irish writer and comedian Kate Perry, is that you never quite know where or how it's going to go. This isn't traditional stand-up, but multiple character-playing, with a collection of almost wholly unorthodox alter-egos eager to share their weird and mostly rather wonderful life stories.

"Some collect butterflies, little red buses and garden gnomes. I collect people", says an excitably unhinged but very pleasant Perry when she first appears on stage. The "people" in question are the five differently costumed, differently cultured individuals she will play within the course of a memorable hour that ends too soon.

Donning a cardigan, a large pair of glasses and a very dusty grey wig, Perry becomes Carmel, a suburban gossip with an unsettling(-ly funny) obsession with Coronation Street and an obsessive difficulty in getting the television channel to turn to the right channel. (Perhaps she just can't accept that her own TV isn't showing Corrie.)

It's interesting that Perry briefly has Carmel point and aggressively press a remote control directly at us – is she switching her audience's attention on and off as she chooses, so that no one will have to see the madness enveloping the poor old girl's mind? Maybe she is simply frustrated at the world, and not having control of what she wants to watch translates into a rant about everyone and everything. Including her own daughter, who we can see she loves despite superficial, skewed priorities ("Mummy, I think you love Ken Barlow more than you love me!"). One does hope that Carmel, for all the fun she gives us, finds peace.

Perry then switches accent, costume and age to step into the significantly smaller shoes of Susie Hedley-Simmons, a twelve-year-old with a red ribbon in her hair and a fiery tongue.

Exhibiting behaviour that goes beyond near teenage restlessness, she is every bit the giggly girl who gets overwhelmed with innovation and technology without considering its consequences. Like Carmel, Susie is gripped by an obsession: documenting her mother's life in her own diary, which leads her to create a video documentary named "Mummy On The Brink". The gaps between and the dangers of adult understandings and childhood misunderstandings are exquisitely presented in a sketch laden with dark humour.

Green-jumpered farm girl Maddy Malarkey gives Perry the chance to indulge in simple slapstick and basic misconceptions. Her trials and tribulations work well as a sort of light interlude, but slightly disappoint in lacking the sad and strangely relatable warmth of Carmel, or the tragic depth of Susie.

Fortunately, the invention returns in Bridget, the young passenger on a trans-Atlantic flight with a lion-shaped hat and Biggles-like goggles who just can't stop talking to the woman beside her. In writing another child full of fantasy, Perry revisits her themes of youthful imagination and misconception, but with a lighter, more colourful tone.

Bridget's out-of-tune singing, delectably abstract thinking and playful point of view - "If you blow on your whistle, a polar bear will hear us when he's having his dinner" is a highlight - is arguably Perry at her most hilarious.

None of that, however, prepares us for Perry's final alter ego, the prim, frumpy and most importantly Amish, Mary Peachy Bender. Her pose and accent alone make the character more than worthwhile, but the manner in which Perry revolves and adapts the funniest and most memorable aspects of the aforementioned character around Mary's customs and routines leaves everyone with rather large grins on their faces. With Mary, themes don't really matter – it's all about the laughs and an unforgettable twist. By the time it's all over, one feels that, given the opportunity, one would happily spend more time in the company of the dry, sly Perry.

Simon Fallaha

Kate Perry performed at Derry-Londonderry's Playhouse as part of the Big Tickle Comedy Festival on September 9.

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