Felicity Ward's Ugly As A Child Variety Show

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

There’s something a bit wrong about Felicity Ward. Something delightfully, hilariously, manically, brilliantly wrong.

She was raised in the provincial backwater of Woy Woy by bonkers parents who were so mean they would pre-soak her Weet-Bix with warm water so they didn’t absorb too much milk. And if Ma and Pa were dotty, the fruit hasn’t fallen far from the tree, judging from the litany of weird behaviour to which she shamelessly confesses in this joyous celebration of the delights of being different.

She was, for example, 17 before a friend told her that she didn't have to pull her skirt down to got to the toilet. Her drunken antics will make you cringe in embarrassment, and she admits she once feigned disability to skip on a train fare. And that’s just the tip of the insanity iceberg that is her 28-year-old life.

Every riotous incident she describes should, by rights, be thoroughly disturbing. That she tells them with a frenzied glee, releasing worrying aspects of her multiple personalities at every turn, should make it more so. But her breathlessly animated delivery and unabashed frankness is deliciously invigorating; a hit of unadulterated comedy amphetamine.

She’s a trained actress and the number of brief characters she produces over the hour is astonishing: from the wonderfully inappropriate school counsellor to the hippy traveller trekking to Machu Picchu. But many are just internal monologues given voice. There’s a touch of Maria Bamford in these brilliantly portrayed grotesques, but packed with more jokes and in a style that’s all her own. Even her facial expressions are devastatingly effective: she can raise a laugh as easily as she can raise an eyebrow.

The show leans heavily on Ward’s mesmerising performance, which while over-the-top and incorporating a raft of exaggerated voices and snippets of songs, remains surprisingly genuine. She is an irresistible force of nature, following her own rules but sweeping everything up in her vortex of madness. Memories, ideas, gags and momentary thoughts gush seemingly unfiltered out of her mouth in a refreshing blast of honesty.

She says she took to entertaining to fit in, when she was the ugly child of the show’s title. However many years on, fitting in still seems an unattainable goal, but you can’t help but embrace her unique strangeness. She’s brilliantly insane, and insanely brilliant.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Melbourne, April 2009

Review date: 1 Jan 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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