Groskop - at the top of her comedy game

Groskop – at the top of her comedy game

It’s not often you start a review with a story about what happened after the show, but I will here. As I was standing in the corridor after this show, waiting for my friends to join me upstairs at the bar for a drink (a very nice amenity at the venue, by the way), a man appeared to my left and said “Sorry”.

Why apologise? I was in his way. What he really wanted to say was “Get out the bloody way, you’re blocking the passageway, you daft prick” but in that terribly British way, it came out as an apology. Newly armed with my therapy from the show, I resisted making a default reciprocal apology, and moved silently to the side. On he went.

Stop Saying Sorry

This is the crux of Viv Groskop’s brilliantly observed show: in the UK, we’re always apologising for something and saying we’re sorry. And we really should not be doing this.

On arrival, the audience is corralled in the bar – no bad thing – and there are reasonable prices with proper ice and lime in your G&T, thank you so very much. We’re also given a pen, and the choice of having one or two cards to fill out, each option embossed with the logo of ‘The Ministry of Apology‘ with the option of either offering an anonymous apology, or demanding one by filling out the card. The cards are collected as we filter into the performance space – and the genius of this seemingly odd part of the show becomes clear later on.

Viv begins the show with acutely observed anecdotes about the apologies that clutter our lives. There are the apologies for her children’s uncensored honesty towards members of the public. Those offered to her from others. She builds to an empassioned plea about her won identity, hidden from her by her “UKIP before UKIP was invented” parents, and which she spent years trying to uncover, only to discover she was not who she thought she was.

Viv was convinced that she must be of Russian origin, and the truth behind that and the journey she went on is best left for you to discover yourself when seeing this superb show. She’s not Russian, and her parents, for reasons of British convention, neither confirmed or denied this for her. So she demands an apology from them.

We then come the the most creative and edgy part of the show – Viv forms the collected audience into The Ministry of Apology, and appoints a Minister, Deputy Minister and Secretary. She then reads out a selection of the apologies, and put it to the Ministry (the entire audience) to decide whether or not these apologies should be granted, in order to purge the need for further guilt.

The way Groskop engages with material which, by its nature, is completely fresh to her, and brings in the ‘Cabinet’ members and workers in the Ministry is superb. She is lightning fast with adding innuendo, killing innuendo, cutting asides, vocal mimicry and pithy responses to the audience’s deliberations and comments. She is at the top of the game as a stand-up.

Rare and Brave

It’s a rare and very brave thing to see a comedian rely so entirely on their audience for the material, and to allow the evening to take its own narrative and comic twists and turns, but she controls it immaculately. Some of the apologists also reveal themselves within the audience, which really builds a great atmosphere – where people are actually turning around and looking at each other, and giggling and smiling quietly amongst themselves as they recognise their own apologies being aired.

Later, it’s the turn for demanding apologies, and after a Cabinet Reshuffle to avoid a sex scandal (you had to be there) the bizarre, hilarious and truly random apologies are read out, and put to the Ministry for approval or denial. It gets loud, sweary, it gets controversial it gets political, it gets sexist, it got slightly pervy at one point, but it’s always one thing above all: very, very funny.

We had migrants, accusations about watered-down Drambuie, the loss of pet rocks, and hapless little dogs clubbed to death on the beach. And we laughed, oh how we laughed at it all.

Sorry I’m a Lady

The climax, with its musical accompaniment, is pure genius, and an obscure 1970s single is brought into an entirely different and unexpected life. The audience has no option but to join in, sing along and smile at it all. No apology necessary – you have fun – and you think quite hard too, and walk away cheered and uplifted.

Say Sorry to the Lady is quite unique in its structure, deeply and truly British in its observances, and it’s genuinely the kind of show you could watch every night and still laugh out loud over and over. This is because the material is always new and unpredictable, but is held together by the superglue of the supremely confident comic control and timing Groskop delivers. You’ll leave with a smile on your face, and I’m sorry, but you’re not going to be apologising again for quite some time.

Go see this show – and to enjoy it fully, arrive early in time to fill out your apologies for the Ministry’s consideration, and grab a drink which you can also enjoy during the performance.

5 Stars

Aug 7-16, 18-30, 20:20 at The Stand 4 (Venue 12)
Viv Groskop: Say Sorry to the Lady
Book Online: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/viv-groskop-say-sorry-to-the-lady