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Danielle Ward: Lies – Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Danielle Ward likes the fact that some of her jokes are so obscure or so bleak that only a few people get them. It’s an admirable commitment to her art, but it doesn’t always make her shows easy to recommend. Some of her ‘have you ever noticed…’ observational gambits, for instance, would probably only truly resonate at a group therapy session for depressives with particular penchant for late Seventies rock, rather than your average comedy audience.

Still, there is guilty pleasure to be had from the dark originality of those mordant jokes that do hit home, even if there are frequent lulls between them.

Taking her theme of lies, this dourly deadpan comic begins with a mixture of truths, urban myths and downright untruths and asks is to guess ‘true or false’. She’s not exactly the slick, glitzy game show host, and the audience interaction is stilted, even if some of the obscure details she reveals are strangely fascinating.

This gives way to her own material, a mix of deliciously mean-hearted gags, weird stories from her own, isolated youth, and more straightforward stand-up fare, such as the difference between Radio 4 and the idiot-magnet that is TalkSport. Misery is never far away: parasitic Twins, the day she drowned chicks as a child, and her early romantic encounter with the man with a fetish for eye sockets, are among the subjects covered in her Stewart Lee-inspired monotone.

The challenging subject matter can be a turn-off, and she makes little concession to sweeten the pill. The narrative wanders and while a ringing banana phone provides occasional distraction, it always heralds an example of Ward’s ‘acting’ that aims for the surreal, but hits the ‘baffling indulgent’ instead.

She delights in deliberately bringing down the mood – a rare desire for a comedian to have – with tales of death that don’t always end in a cheeky punchline to generate laughs from the release of the dour mood. Broodingly dark comedy is one thing, but Ward risks overwhelming her dry wit with solemn morbidity.

The images will certainly stick with you – as will some of her dry lines, since this Radio 4 writer can string together a gag if she needs to. There just aren’t quite enough of them to overcome he sombre subject matter… and that’s no lie.

Review date: 19 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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