Joanna Neary's Magic Hole

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

In her Perrier-nominated 2004 debut, Joanna Neary brilliantly parodied Bjork squarking about the property market, played a nervous woman giving a talk on sex aids, a conniving cat and an amiable dolphin, not to mention an impossibly demanding French coquette and a Celia Johnson-style frustrated housewife, before closing with a literal Pan’s People mime.

Four years later, and every one of them is back, even the Lee Evans-style finale, albeit to Charles Aznavour this time around. The woman’s a versatile and accomplished character comedian, but her repetition of ideas would make even Little Britain blush.

That said, there’s plenty to enjoy here, whether you’ve seen these creations before or not. Neary is a rare comic talent with a wonderfully expressive face and an ability to drop instantly into warm and warped three-dimensional characters. But she doesn’t forget to include punchlines alongside the impressive demonstrations of her formidable performing abilities – unlike certain acts we could mention.

She flashes from surreal over-the-top personalities, like the brilliant Bjork or the demented Heston Blumenthal, to more subtle, rounded characters such as the aging film star recollecting the golden years of Hollywood or the naïve hippy who spends her days on Brighton seafront with her Bongos Of Hope. Casting agents should be left in no doubt: if you want outrageous and silly, come to Neary, or if you want a low-key and nuanced for some Office-style comedy verité, well, come to Neary, too.

Personally, I’d rather see her go for out-and-out, high-energy bonkers alone, as she has a special gift for being outrageously, ridiculously funny with exaggerated nonsense that’s reminiscent of Vic Reeves in his prime. But maybe that’s just my taste.

What holds these disparate characters together is Neary’s own personality. She doesn’t talk much as herself, save for a couple of brief links and to read her own embarrassing teenage diaries (something else she’s done before), but there’s just enough to give us a glimpse of the endearing woman behind this vast cast; a charm which underpins every creation.

A few sketches flail around for laughs, such as the naïve festival-goer or the middle-aged male chancer trying to scrounge Rizla papers, but the pace is brisk and no one outstays their welcome. You’re never far from another rounded and witty creation in any case.

This is another assured offering from a perennial festival favourite, even if it’s got an air of familiarity from previous shows.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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