The Counting House
Material : Delivery : Laughs :
“Perhaps 3.45 in the afternoon isn’t the best time to be making jokes about vaginas,” offers Andrea Hubert in response to a tepid audience response to the first half an hour of the show; perhaps she’s right, we’re in a tight space, it’s sunny outside, hot inside (We’re in a room accurately described as The Sitting Room) and to the comic’s annoyance, she’s in competition with a heavy metal band playing in the courtyard outside. Given the subject matter and that there are only three days of the fringe left, there is cause for concern here.
The theme of the show is living with depression (for 25 years) and we’re promised that that we’ll find “mental illness hilarious”. Andrea begins by telling us that she had a breakdown in Waitrose and then we take many misanthropic digressions before returning to the breakdown in Waitrose and the resulting visit to the doctor. It’s clear that the humour isn’t to everyone’s taste: it’s perverse, absurdist, scatological, Rabelaisian, and full of grotesque bodily images; Andrea tells us she would like to be an observational comic like Michael Mcintyre, pointing out the absurd social mores that everyone recognizes and finds funny; but how do you do that when your observations are based on the dark web of the mind? Well, perspective and extreme reactions to the everyday behaviours, actions and attitudes of others. Amongst other things, Andrea tells us anecdotes of her reactions to pregnant mothers who stroke their belly, and women who wear white dresses; whatever a white dress may symbolise, to Andrea it means a smug, “I will not spill or dribble food on my dress at any point during the day”; her riff on the stroking of the pregnancy belly comes closer to Macintyre’s observation of social mores: “I made this, (stroke) me and God (stroke), oh and of course with a little help from the father” (stroke). A successful part of the show was called Good Deeds, the audience were asked to write down a good deed they had performed, Andrea then pulled them out of a hat in order to “shit on them.” Metaphorically, of course. The audience played a part here, writing down a succession of surreal good deeds, including giving a baby to a homeless man, eventually we discover it was meant to read a brolly.
So, was it hilarious? At times, there were a few big laughs, some mild amusement and the occasional dead end; No doubting Andrea’s stage presence though, she demanded the audiences’ attention, approached the material with energy and was anything but weak in character or delivery— as in the punning title.
The show was far from perfect for all sorts of reasons but I enjoyed it. However, apart from the difficulties of heavy metal, heat and the time of day, there were two or three people playing on their mobile phones during the performance—one challenged by Andrea, “I can see the bloody blue light”. I’m of the generation that uses a mobile just for phone calls; I’ve no idea whether this a new way of giving a Roman thumbs down or just bad manners, but if you don’t like the show or are not interested, wouldn’t it be better to just leave? Well, as Andrea said during the show, “I like the illusion of progress”.
Reviewer : Paul Rivers