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Joanna Neary Is Not Feeling Herself

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Armed just with a seemingly endless supply of different costumes and wigs, Joanna Neary uses her hour to create a plethora of characters through monologue and song. However, contrary to the advertised extensions or exaggerations of her own personality they are rather, a collection of both astute social observations and entirely more surreal souls.

The audience are bombarded with the presence of a self-proclaimed Bohemian artist, a jittery pubescent girl recalling her first disco and Mr Timpkins, a sly cat mourning the recent loss of his, er, 'dingle' ­ all single-handedly incarnated by the timid, yet instantly appealing Neary. The best of these characters are made memorable through a process of subtle implication and perfectly natural catchphrases.

The first of these two techniques is achieved often with small, but deliberately expressive, movements or slurs of speech. Neary is frequently preoccupied with insecure characters ­ those overcompensating for their perceived shortcomings or desire to transcend their position in life ­ and her method of subtlety reveals these personality gulfs with regular brilliance. Her karaoke queen's wandering eyes - unable to directly face her audience ­ and forced musical rhyming both imply far more truth than her song's ambitious lyrics.

With a few characters does Neary manage to apply a lasting catchphrase, and when she does, they are memorable and apt. "I was so zoned out" neatly defines the hippy-wannabe middle-class student and the u "I know it sounds silly but" is enhanced by a top performance of an upper-class bumpkin that would be at home in Brief Encounter.

However, when a defining phrase fails to emerge, Neary is content to just tirelessly labour a single point, the process of which is so deliberate as to make the character less believable and endearing.

It is those that fall into this latter trap which hold the show back. Considering that some of the sketches are less than two minutes in length, and no one character appears more than once in the show, Neary presents an enormous army of personalities. Considering that some are as half-baked as they are, only a precious few stick in the memory.

Her delves into surrealism are often the victims of this, perhaps suggesting more of a talent for social imitation than expression of imagination. Bringing to life her Mum and Grandma, appears to imply that Neary has to resort to impressions to fill an hour; a real shame when there is an undeniable talent for creation.

Still, this is an impressive show, outshining many other similar character sketch ideas with contemporary characters and use of song. This, coupled with an absolutely inspired finale, really highlights Joanna Neary's potential.

Review date: 1 Aug 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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