Kirsty Mann: Skeletons | Review of comic's tale of keeping her double life secret
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Kirsty Mann: Skeletons

Review of comic's tale of keeping her double life secret

Pretty much everyone trying to get on in the underfunded arts will be able to identify with Kirsty Mann’s situation in trying to juggle a conventional job alongside more creative endeavours. However, few will have gone to such lengths as she did to keep the two parts of her life so completely separate from each other.

While it’s understandable she kept her comedy and acting career a secret from more serious-minded NHS colleagues in North London, it’s more surprising that her best friend of many years knows her only as a performer, utterly unaware of her demanding job as an anaesthetist.

This is the straightforward premise of Skeletons, a monologue built upon relatively low-stakes circumstances entirely of her own making. ‘Why the big secret?’ is a question that goes unresolved.

But while the basics are simple, Mann turns them into a highly effective show with understated skill, deploying a wry wit, a knack for quickly-drawn characterisations and a cheerful, gregarious manner that draws us in.

Such a charming bedside manner gives Skeleton’s few dramatic moments extra heft, such as vividly recalling the harrowing trauma of being on the frontline during Covid and the ‘this is the message…’ payoff. Emotionally manipulative maybe, but isn’t that what a performance is supposed to be? And she’s very good at it, making the journey through her double life a wholly satisfying one.

The jeopardy is in her subterfuge being found out by either her medical or arty colleagues – classic farce stuff, although Mann only sparing leans into that element when her two worlds threaten to overlap. Day-to-day she’s more worried about being asked ‘what do you do?’ at parties.

Well, this is the answer, in a tightly written 50 minutes that introduces us to such characters as her humourless boss, reckless best mate, Sloaney agent, dilettante playwright, and bewildered patient convinced he saw her in the local panto – all of which showcase her considerable talents for accents as well as characters. Largely because of these elements, Skeleton is more theatrical monologue than conversational stand-up, but Mann is a thoroughly engaging raconteur.

The comedy inevitably, but efficiently, draws on the ‘things found stuck up a bottom’ trope of many a comic from a medical background. And like those foreign objects,  Mann’s secret is better off out than in – both for her and for us, who get to enjoy this deceptively gratifying slice of warm, comic storytelling.

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Review date: 27 Jun 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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