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Felicity Ward: The Hedgehog Dilemma

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

The funniest moment of this hour – and there are a great many contenders for that honour – comes when Felicity Ward sings and dances her way through a jaunty Dick Van Dyke-style musical number… all about the horrific incidents that happened to her during her years as an alcoholic.

It’s a typical combination of powerfully stupid performance and powerfully poignant story that makes this such an impressive and enjoyable show.

Her booze hell is only part the story, which mainly focuses on her relationship woes. The title, the Hedgehog Dilemma is a Freudian analogy for whether to pair up or not. Do the animals huddle together in winter, to share warmth but risk getting badly injured on each other’s quills, or go it alone, without risk of being hurt or hurting another, but with the increased possibility of a lonely, cold death?

She started thinking about this following a difficult break-up after eight years with her fiancé – her childhood sweetheart and the only man she’d slept with – just as she was coming to terms with the alcohol abuse.

This might sound more like the synopsis of a misery memoir than a laugh-out-loud comedy show; but rest assured this is very, very funny. Mainly because Ward is a force of nature with a ridiculously puerile sense of humour. That she’s exposing her life on stage gives the show an honest, emotional heart, but rarely has existentialist angst been so silly.

The childishness manifests itself in juvenile jokes, flamboyantly celebrated with her clownish physically, which is over-the-top yet never too much. She’s a strong character actress, too, breaking off into sketches to illustrate her story with everyone from the crass British lad she had a couple of dates with to the aloof therapist making sense of Ward’s emotional train-wreck.

After last year’s more restrained offering, The Hedgehog Dilemma shows Ward coming into her own as a stand-up – playing to her strengths as a mad ball of fizzing, awkward, comic energy, far too open with her feelings. With few boundaries as to what she’ll say in the quest for a laugh, she’s unafraid to look an idiot as long as she gets attention.

Tellingly, the technician could be heard chuckling throughout the show – suggesting that even on the sixth or seventh time of hearing, Ward’s raw, Knockabout charm still has potency. That’s easy to believe, for this is a impressive offering, with a tour-de-force performance and a compelling confessional heart.

Review date: 6 Apr 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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