Edward James

Review: Joanne Neary Is Not Feeling Herself – Baltic Square, Gateshead Quays

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Joanne Neary is a naturally witty, confident, and charismatic performer with a number of carefully considered stand-up observations. Sadly, this is not her act.

Her act consists of a number of characters, skits, songs, and an interpretive dance routine – most of which is lost on tonight’s audience.

Neary takes the stage at Jesterval with a character based on an upper-class housewife, weaving a story about home life and the societal pressures of keeping up appearances.

As with many left-field comics, the audience exchange a combination of nervous giggles and confused glances until Neary steps out of character to explain her act.

The hour-long set continues in much the same fashion, each character confusing and surprising people in equal measure.

A few forced laughs are had throughout the performance, but by and large this audience is held in a state of mild bewilderment.

The tension is relieved every now and again is Neary steps back into her “own” personality, only to be reinstated with each surreal foray into theatrical art.

While there are a breadth of characters on display, each with their own idiosyncrasies, voice, and mannerisms, some are better thought-out than others, and the transitions between them are aided by props and costumes.

What becomes difficult is characters without a distinct visual identity, as sometimes the audience are unsure whether Neary is struggling with a character, or performing a new act.

This is especially evident when Neary performs a character with extremely high anxiety levels, brought out just when the set is at its lowest point.

The discomfort in the room is almost unbearable as the audience attempt to figure out whether this is a very convincing character or whether Neary is simply having an on-stage breakdown.

Happily, the former appears to be the case.

Even so, a combination of unsteady set transitions, undefined characters, and a nervous audience made for a fairly uncomfortable show.

If Joanne Neary could decide whether she wants to be a straight stand-up or character act she could do very well in mainstream comedy, or else she could have a bright future in the avant-garde stable with the likes of Paul Foot and Hans Teeuwen.

Either way, an hour-long fumble through some underdeveloped ideas in front of a not-so-forgiving festival crowd is universally unsatisfying.

Date of live review: Sunday 6 October 2013

  • Kate

    I saw this show last night and feel a bit stupid now. I hadn’t realised there was an audience hive mind that would collectively fail to appreciate any of the sketches. I found it easy to differentiate between the characters and Jo Neary largely because, as the review says, each has “their own idiosyncrasies, voice, and mannerisms”. I’m no expert but I think it’s called “acting”. It was particularly easy to identify the Celia Johnson character when Neary referred to her as “Celia Johnson” and to be honest, I didn’t feel confused at all. Slightly embarrassing to admit now, but I wasn’t forcing the odd laugh either, they were just leaking out of me like normal ones. In my defence, my friends were laughing too, in fact one became near hysterical during the Bjork sketch. I will have words with him.