Friday, February 21, 2020

Review: 'Thank You and Goodnight' at the Popular Union, 20th February 2020

Reviewed by David James
Rating: 3 Stars

Shows where a performer bemoans their crappy love life and dating experiences are a dime a dozen. Honestly, there are some nights out at the theatre where I wish the maxim 'write what you know' had never been invented. However, if the London fringe theatre scene is a soup of overly intimate confessionals, Emilia Stawicki's Thank You and Goodnight floats to the top like a particularly crunchy crouton. 

This one-woman show traces Stawicki's love life back to her school days: mapping out the Catholic guilt that stunted her sexual development, the series of disappointing men who flitted through her life and her own feelings of inadequacy.

Ordinarily, I feel a bit short-changed when a performer hits upon the novel idea of charging people to attend their group therapy session, but Stawicki is more than entertaining enough to make it work. I probably don't need to go into too much more detail than pointing out that she's very funny and charismatic.

Those are two qualities that are rarer than you'd imagine in comedy and theatre, but every inch of her performance feels calculated to draw laughs. It's the way she manages to lock eyes with everyone in the audience during the show and the conspiratorial way she draws us into her mindset. My usual barometer for this kind of thing working is whether the show can actually draw a couple of laughs from me. Well, mission: accomplished. In spades.

In addition, though this is a small, low-budget, hand-made sort of affair, it feels very professional. There's a lot of quick music cues and lighting changes throughout the show, and reliably hitting all them gives the show a confidence and slickness that goes a long way. So credit to whoever's on tech, as it's nice to see a small-scale show that's clearly been well-drilled.

In addition, Stawicki is such a pleasant person to spend an hour with that the interactive portions of the show aren't remotely intimidating. There are often moments where she interacts with us - and I was probably asking for it when I chose to sit in the front row centre in the seat with a banana taped to the bottom.

No matter what, you'll find something to identify with in Thank You and Goodnight. It is neither groundbreaking nor particularly ambitious, but it's funny, warm-hearted, well-performed and concise. I can think of many worse ways to spend an hour.

Thank You and Goodnight is next on at the Camden People's Theatre, March 8th. Tickets here.

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