Joanna Neary is Pan's Person

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Joanna Neary is an amazingly talented performer, able to flit in and out of subtly nuanced characters in an instant. Her gift for mimicry is impeccable, capturing accents and mannerisms like a personality Xerox machine, convincingly becoming the people she portrays with the aid of little more than a few hats from her dressing-up box.

It is a great disappointment, then, that her creations amount to so little comedically. All the more so given that a couple of them do turn out to be very funny, which only serves to highlight the missing ingredient in the remainder.

A clear favourite is the croak-voiced 11-year Lee - half-boy, half-deer and all frightened. It’s a surreal, but winning, idea and the writing perfectly captures his trying to put on a show of bravery in the face of the terrifying new world opening up before him.

But most of the characters are far from being so memorable, evoking a vague feeling we know them, but nothing more tangible. From the fey artistically aware Guardianista Fiona, to the avant garde performance poet to the toughened Cockney moll complaining about the times when ‘life were hard’, they are all believable, but not all that interesting.

Some nice lines do sometimes emerge: nothing that would look good on paper, just because they so perfectly encapsulate the character and their insecurities – those gaps in self-confidence being where Neary seeks comedy.

She offers us a few musical interludes, too. An uncanny recreation of jaunty Sixties-style Carnaby Street number is a highlight, but the literal interpretation of a song’s lyrics, Pan’s People-style – in this case Nilsson’s Without Out - cannot top other performers’ take on the same idea.

It’s a shame this collections of sketches – which she cracks through at an impressive rate – contains so many duds. There is clearly a lot of ability in this young performer, which you would hope could take her far. But this show is too rickety a vehicle for that journey.

Review date: 1 Aug 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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