Touring – reviewed at the Bunker Theatre, London
Guest reviewer: Ellen Casey
Queen C*nt: Sacred or Profane? It’s a great, intriguing title, and the strapline promises even more: to let us watch Deborah Ward and China Blue Fish leave their husbands, practice witchcraft, and destroy capitalism. Sign me up!
In practice Queen C*nt is a sketch show, bouncing from the absurd to the political to the feminist. Acting as a buffer between these bits is a giant, silken vagina with a talking clit, often accompanied by a walking visual representation of the female reproductive system. No, this is not a fever dream – though there are moments it definitely felt like one.
Let’s tackle the vagina first – though as the name suggests, Ward and Fish want you to refer to it as something else. The construction of wreathed genitalia – with multimedia elements – as the backdrop to a performance is an instant ice-breaker to a show like this.
Entering the theatre and being confronted by it, as well as Ward and Fish dressed in skin-tight snakeskin posing with apples (“Did you get it?” They ask later, “It’s a reference to the Bible”), builds a great pre-show atmosphere; I sat down smugly, feeling like I was in for a treat. However, and it hurts to say this, the giant vagina let me down a little bit. A lot of what the face projected onto it (think the sun in Teletubbies – sorry) monologued during costume changes just wasn’t funny.
It leads to a stop-start sensation where the laughs will peter out, so instead of acting as a warm-up to the next sketch, it is more like an awkward cool-down period. The reproductive system which acts as prop-dropper and assistant to the vagina? Completely unremarkable, and deeply unfunny. It’s a genuine shame to be dropped out of a giggle so fast.
The real joy in this performance, I found, was any chance Ward and Fish really got to flex their character actor muscles. Highlights include old women re-creating hardcore porn, a Theresa May sketch that will make you twitch the next time you hear the term ‘Hard Brexit’. Given something meaty to work with, the laughs came quickly – even to Ward and Fish.
These were more established, old-school style bits, reliant on tropes (the innocent-yet-perverted grannies; topical, terrible politics) that felt commonly funny to the audience. It’s where the characters were a little more hazily defined that things faltered – a couple of the sketches felt shallow and forgettable, and in a 90 minute sketch show, it just takes a few off minutes to throw off the whole experience. It gave it a tone of disappointing unevenness that was a little frustrating.
That said, in the second half things really got going; honourable mention has got to go to being squirted by breast milk (my head swivelled to the only man in the front row as his jaw dropped to the floor) during an edited rendition of Like A Virgin; it was hilarious and weird, and I gut laughed. With a little more editing, and some tighter directorial control, that could be the experience for the whole of Queen Cunt. When that happens who knows? Maybe cunt truly will reign supreme.
Photo credit: Tilly May
My verdict? Lots of fun and strange potential, slightly wasted in aimless wanderings.
Queen Cunt: Sacred or Profane? ran at The Bunker Theatre on 10 & 11 March 2019. The UK tour will finish at the Merlin Theatre, Frome on 16 March – tickets are available online or from the box office.
Tags: China Blue Fish, Deborah Ward, London, Off West End, Queen Cunt: Sacred or Profane?, review, The Bunker, The Bunker Theatre, theatreCategories: all posts, Ellen Casey, Guest review, review, theatre
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