Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fringe 2012 Review: pomme is french for apple

Note: this review contains mature language appropriate to the discussion of the show.

pomme is french for apple, but it’s also very close to Jamaican slang for vagina, as the dynamic writer-actor duo of Liza Paul and Bahia Watson helpfully explain to their audience. Watson, playing feisty and free, and Paul, playing shy and reserved, share a sketch comedy show with us that gives us all different perspectives on vaginas and the women who own them – or vice versa, as the case may be. An insider’s perspective, if you will. The ladies are completely uninhibited, with wicked senses of humour and comic timing. Most of the sketches focus on what men do correctly and incorrectly in their treatment of women, and what women do correctly and incorrectly in the treatment of their vaginas.

The set-up, an almost anthropological explanation of the term, is very helpful and provides interesting cultural information, and also the knowledge that, if you don’t understand something in the various accents and patois the performers very successfully employ, you can assume they’re still talking about, well, that thing that sounds like pomme. It’s also very welcoming to a diverse audience, and lets us know that it’s okay if we feel moved to respond to anything on stage. This was both a freeing statement for the audience, and showed that the women know their audience was likely to include “responders” and wanted to make the rest of a more reserved audience comfortable with that.

The show might have called itself “The Vagina Dialogues,” because a huge part of it is made up of just that. Kudos to the costume designer or director for an amazingly simple concept, which works wonders for imagery and maximum humour impact: the women wear a scarf-like, unbroken strip of pink cloth attached in a circle (a Moebius vagina?)  around their necks. When the time is right, they pull it forward, stretch it out (in appropriately varied ways) and use their talking heads and hair in perfect placement for – okay, I’m getting a little embarrassed just writing this review. Suffice it to say that it’s a stunningly effective, simple visual that is funny every time, mostly because the actors imbue them with different personalities, whether they’re talking about the need for freedom from tight jeans and panties, or one is lording it over the other, who in contrast to her owner’s religious convictions, is very upset about the lack of oral attention she has received.

All of this sounds a bit puerile, and in some ways it is. You have to be “in the mood” for this type of humour, so to speak, and sometimes, as a reserved person who is easily embarrassed, I wanted to crawl under my chair and stay there. But the outspoken vaginas mostly feel provocative and bold, and if they won’t speak for themselves, who will?

Other sketches that score include “men’s habits on trial,” and the epidemic of “no-game-itis” sweeping the nation, alongside a song urging him to “take your hand off my head.” Songs are a major plus in the show; both women have lovely voices.

The audience was absolutely roaring with approval and delight the day I went; at noon, no less. Clearly, these fresh voices have struck a chord. Though the occasional “blackout sketch: is a little too quick to work (we’re expecting a full story) and the endings of sketches to land with a proper button more of the time is something to work on, there is so much fearless talent on stage that it doesn’t really matter. By the end, easily-embarrassed me was only disappointed that we didn’t get one last reappearance of the vagina dialogues.


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