Anna Nicholson has true talent for improvisation and facilitating audience participation – which is where the fast-paced, energetic and enjoyable Woman of the Year really holds its own.
The Space is a great choice of venue for Anna Nicholson’s Woman of the Year. Though a little out of the way, the intimate stage in an old church hall (set up like a comedy club) lends a relaxed atmosphere to proceedings – and Nicholson does not disappoint. Her 60-minute one woman show captures the audience’s attention, with Nicholson playing on a primed cultural climate of feminism to celebrate women of all different walks of life (the good, the bad and the ugly) in search for this year’s ‘top dog’.
We’re presented with four different characters: a bra-fitter who believes 1950s modesty is the true key to femininity, an ‘it-girl’ vlogger with thousands of followers sharing her snippets of millennial wisdom, a rock-star reverend with overly-competitive tendencies and an uncharacteristically uninhibited pensioner with a mischievous nature.
Unfortunately, not all characters are quite as well developed as each other. Nicholson’s ‘it-girl’ Bianca and her promiscuous pensioner come across as somewhat two-dimensional – the sort of characters easily identified from other comedy performances before this one. This meant that slightly cheap laughs were rife throughout the production – however, this does not mean those laughs were unenjoyable. With a beer in hand, these laughs still added to the merriment of the evening.
Amongst the vlogger demonstrating the best way to take a selfie, or the grandma talking about her rampant sex life, there were – however – some snippets of far better thought-out and original character work. Reverend Ruth is definitely a highlight. Nicholson’s comedic energy on stage is contagious, here portraying a cross between the Vicar of Dibley and David Brent. The characters’ constant competition with the Reverend from a neighbouring parish keeps the audience entertained and had many of us backing her for the win.
Nicholson gives other notable moments of depth to the performance whilst interacting with the audience or her pianist accompaniment (who also evolved with each character, from Lyn the store-assistant, Paul the vloggers digital wizard to, my personal favourite, Gordon the organist). The apt amount of audience participation made me curious to see this show again as new audience members would mean new plotlines and scenarios.
It was in this improv that we saw Nicholson’s talent really shine through, and I’d be keen to see her again in a setting where she has more time to develop deeper and more complex characters. Or, alternatively, in a more traditional ‘stand-up’ context – where we could see her interactions with the audience really develop and get more of the laughs that she deserves.