Ava Vidal: Misfit
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Ava's always felt out of place: at public school, as a prison officer and a struggling teenage single mum. Luckily, the "rising star" (Guardian) of C4's Kings Of Comedy and BBC2’s The Sack Race can laugh at her misfortunes. So will you, as this 2003 BBC New Comedy finalist who “commands the stage” (Chortle) makes her much-anticipated Edinburgh debut.
Things don’t look too good for Ava Vidal today. Despite the evening slot, she has only been awake for an hour and the festival sounds like it has truly taken its toll on her throat, meaning that she is croaking her show rather than actually delivering it.
Yet, she has a natural on-stage charm and chatty demeanour that overcomes these obstacles to produce an impressive, if flawed, debut full-length show.
Vidal has always been an outsider, wherever she has lived. Whether growing up in a boarding school in Haywards Heath or living in London in her late teens, she claims to have never been accepted into a larger group of people.
In this show, then, Vidal attempts to examine the layers of preconception that apparently surround her, providing the audience with a commentary through her often difficult life up to this point in time.
The story is an engaging one, taking in a teenage pregnancy, abusive boyfriends and a stint as a prison guard. These clearly do not sound like typical goldmines of comedy, but Vidal has a biting string of sarcasm, often delivered in an innocent fashion, that suggests a strength over adversity which gets the audience instinctively onto her side.
She is frequently seen to be getting one over on those who have previously tried to exclude or oppress her. It’s coupled with a sensibility towards chatty audience participation, as she listens to the replies with seemingly genuine interest, making Vidal all the more likable as a comic.
The main problem with the show is the fashion with which Vidal inserts her jokes. The script is kept at a reasonably high laughter-rate, with nothing that does not lead in some way to a punchline. While that sounds great, as another laugh will never be far away, it means the personal story seems forced and contrived, rather than existing as a natural narrative.
Occasionally, she will begin a topic that seems unrelated to what she had been previously discussing, simply for the purposes of a new set-up. As a result the show sometimes feels incoherent and disjointed.
But this is a common problem with debut full-length shows, and one that is usually corrected with time. For now, Vidal delivers an enjoyable hour that is still well worth a look.