Face to Face Review: Betty Has To Go Now (LOST Theatre, London)

Betty-Oct-2014_y7t55n3kRating: ****

In A Nutshell

Joyful, inappropriate, and very very funny.

Overview

Take one part woman obsessed with Betty Crocker, add a pinch of nuclear Holocaust paranoia, season with a dash of menopause, and bake until outrageous.

Writing

Deirdre Strath’s culinary creation is a direct product of previous Face to Face festivals. The piece had a life as a 15 minute segment of last year’s festival, and for this year she has worked with Colin Watkeys to develop it into a full 50 minute show.

Strath’s creation is a homely taste of American hospitality combined with twisted and off-kilter world views, and tempered with an almost religious dedication to the queen of American home cooking. It’s inspired and riotously original and a character like no other to have graced the new writing. This volatile and unique concoction, whilst one cherry short of Bakewell tart, paves the way for outlandish and incredibly witty points of view as well as the cream of some comic moments, icing the show with unexpected smarts.

What’s best is that Strath peppers her dialogues with some of the most unexpected and tongue in cheek quips, all recited with incredibly creative application of language, most joyously her astonishing allegory of amazingly astute alliterations. You never quite see where they’re going to come from, and most of the time you’re left in a state of humorously winded and in awe. But behind it all is also the pathos of a woman on the edge; going through menopause, genuinely worried about international atomic warfare, and eating and drinking through the increasingly strained relationship with her son. When these rise above the laughter, you get a dark and touching portrait of a woman staving off a nervous breakdown, and who is as vulnerable as the rest of us.

The only issue is that parts of the extended text lacks the quick-fire punch of other moments. But nothing ever feels like padding and this is essentially just Strath’s comprehensively created character just being less funny for a moment rather than being less interesting and engaging.

[youtube http://youtu.be/9PizyE8Fd-g]

Performance

Strath really does embody her character ever atom of the way, to the point it’s difficult to see where she ends and her Crocker-acolyte begins. But as well as delivery the zingers and outlandish one-liners with slick ability, Strath also produces a gaggle of props which she also utilises with as much zest and comic timing as her text. Cue delicious cakes and cookies willing dished out to the audience, customised cocktails, mini blow torches, and a rather “explosive” creation made especially for a certain East Asian dictator. She takes the time to welcome the audience into her make-shift kitchen and make them feel at home, adding even more to her ineffable charm and demeanour.

But there were times where she slips up a little, sometimes forgetting her lines and stumbling a little through the order of her narrative. But where she does she rolls marvellous with the punches and recovers well to the point you wonder whether it was all purposeful to begin with. But you can’t come away without loving Strath’s character (and her cakes) and having seen the bright light of gospel of Betty Crocker…and the hydrogen bomb.

Verdict

Forget the Great British Bake off. Deirdre Strath serves up an evening with more sass, glamour, and flavour, than Mary Berry’s soggy bottom ever will.

[youtube http://youtu.be/C0srgX52wCU]

Betty Has To Go Now was performed as part of the Face to Face Festival of Solo Theatre which took place at the LOST Theatre, London, SW8 2JU, between 6 – 10 October 2014. For more information about the festival, visit www.solotheatrefestival.co.uk.

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