Preview at The Stand Comedy Club, 30-Jun-2015
Edinburgh Festival Dates: Aug 5, 7-16, 18-30, Stand 3&4 (Venue 12)
Book Online: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/viv-groskop-say-sorry-to-the-lady
Fringe show previews can be perilous for performer and audience alike.
As an audience, we’re pleased to be getting a sneak preview, but we know that the performance might not be polished and complete. For the performer, they’ll be testing reaction to certain gags, practicing getting timing right, and also moulding the material to decide what is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the final show.
The Men from the Ministry
For all of these reasons, the audience’s expectations are rarely set too high. But here’s the simple and delightful surprise: Viv Groskop performed brilliantly, with superb audience interaction and ad-libbing, and a packed Stand venue was rocking with laughter and shouting ‘Say Sorry’ along with Viv and her newly appointed Minister and Deputy Minister for Apologies. (More of the Ministry later.)
The premise of the show is quite simple: We as Brits almost define ourselves by our apologies, and if we’re to actually have real identities and personalities, we need to stop apologising so much and grow a pair of balls.
Is Groskop truly Russian?
The idea starts from Viv Groskop’s own childhood existential crisis starting as a 5-year old who wonders why she has an unusual name that people make fun of. Her parents, insist that it is a very British and very normal name. When Gorskop befriends a Russian girl, she starts to suspect that she too may also be exotic, different, and possibly Russian.
So obsessed does Groskop become by this identity that she went on to gain a first at Cambridge in Russian, followed by a further degree in the language. She even owns up to sleeping with several Russian men. But without spoiling the story for you, it turns out in the end that her identity was not quite what she thought it might be.
The Kids on the bus say terrible, honest things
The pain for her, now as a mother of three, is that she wants her children to be independent, free thinking individuals. But this means they are embarrassingly frank, to the point of rudeness, in certain public situations such as on bus journeys. “Why is that lady fat?” “Those tattoos are so common,” and the like. She links this struggle to balance honesty and propriety to her own decision to strike out as a comedian and do a punishing, intensive learning regime of 100 gigs in 100 days. She could hardly expect her children to make their lives exactly what they dreamed of when she had herself suppressed this long-held desire. She also is struggling against suppressing the cultural background and history of her children in the way that her parents did to her.
Highlights: Apologies from the audience
One of the highlights of the show is when Viv reads out audience members’ apologies, and demands to be given apologies, with these having been gathered in as the crowd has assembled prior to the gig. She starts with the apologies, and gathers two front-row audience members into her confidence quickly to appoint them as Minister and Deputy Minister for Apologies. Decisions are taken as to whether to grant an apology at Ministerial, Deputy and Audience level, with Groskop deftly characterising different voices and accents.
She manages to engage the entire room swiftly as she reads out this material, and her comments and ad-libs are lightning fast as she deals with material that is, by its nature, completely new to her. The result is sublime and engaging comedy. Within moments, the audience is granting or denying apologies, and the Minister and his Deputy are also making informed technical judgements. The ease with which comments and jokes coming from the audience are worked into her dialogue shows that Groskop has been practicing her art studiously, because her timing, body language and facial expressions all work to raise the levels of amusement and anticipation in her audience. She also worked what is a difficult layout of venue successfully, gathering in and acknowledging the large section of audience packed off stage right.
All about the accent and the place
Viv was deeply amusing with her struggles to get to grips with Scottish accents from both East and West, and while admitting her Teddington received pronunciation confusion, she was never patronising. She knows she cannae do a Scots accent, but she produces such an accurate caricature of it that it gets to the comic essence of how any individual can struggle with the variety in accents and dialects in the UK today.
If there is one tiny criticism of this sparkling performance, it is with the ending, which didn’t quite flow. I suspect this is the result of packaging a one-hour set into 40 minutes, but this was a minor blip in what was a thoroughly intelligent, funny, enjoyable and polished performance.
Based on this outing, I’d recommend booking early for her August run, as word will swiftly get around that Viv Groskop delivers a night of comedy you’re going to enjoy very much.