Ursula Martinez: My Stories, Your Emails @ Barbican Pit, London

written and performed by
Ursula Martinez

directed by
Mark Whitelaw
Ursula Martinez is known for her experimental theatre work, several plays including Office Party, and for being a founder member of the Olivier Award-winning circus phenomenon, La Clique.

And, of course, for a certain conjuring trick involving a hanky…

The irony is that had Martinez had her way her current show would never have existed for it is based on responses to that infamous ‘disappearing hanky’ act from La Clique.
Martinez never wanted the filmed act to appear on the internet, but after it did she received emails from people all over the world. In the present show, these emails which are charming, complimentary, delusional, perverted or just downright disturbing are read out to reveal how the internet can distort peoples perception of reality, and how Martinez has, in the process, been turned from a real human being into some sex bomb or glam puss.

The evening starts well as Martinez addresses the audience in an informal and engaging manner before getting some belly laughs as she recaps on the show so far to some latecomers with the simple words: “perve, minge, penis!” She then proceeds to relate stories from her own life that range from the beautifully funny to the slightly more sinister. Her delivery is clever, so that when she recalls how someone once called her Wog meat we automatically await the hilarious punch line, before being left with a bitter taste in the mouth when we realise there is none. At another point she begins a story with My father died five weeks ago and stares for a second in contemplation of this, before proceeding with the anecdote as if nothing had happened.

Things take a nosedive, however, when Martinez starts to read the emails from others. The numerous messages concerning how they would love to meet (or do substantially more with) her become monotonous, and it comes as little shock that there are many strange people in the world.

Though it is pretty unacceptable to write to a stranger and say what many of these people said to Martinez, one cant help feeling that she can hardly protest that they have robbed her of her identity or dignity when she is sticking a (typically unflattering) photo of them up on a projector, reading out their emails, and inviting us to laugh at them. Martinez may have intended this to be a celebration of peoples strangeness, but ultimately she reduces these people as they have reduced her, and, totally ironically, sometimes leaves us seeing them as the exploited ones.

It could be argued that this is Martinezs mechanism for coping with all the unwanted attention, but one persons coping mechanism doesnt automatically make for a scintillating or indeed substantial theatrical experience. I dont say that theres nothing deeper going on here, but I would only recommend this show to those who are searching for a few easy laughs, rather than any real insights into human nature.

No related posts found...