Showing as part of Mimetic Festival 2014 (17 – 29 November 2014)
In reviewing ‘Marion Deprez Is Gorgeous’ there is a rather large elephant in the room. Can one seriously review the show without addressing the matter of the title? It has been written as a preposition rather than a question – which is a bold gesture and leaves no rooms for dissenting opinion – and the result is that Ms Deprez’ act must rest on the implicit assumption that she is, by objective measures, ‘gorgeous’.
The photos that accompany this review mean readers can form their own judgement about Ms Deprez’s looks whilst this reviewer will cloak his opinions behind the very British trait of discretion (which seems entirely appropriate given the extended Gallic riffs that undercut the performance) and look to review the show on its own merits.
The show is an examination of our stereotypical ideas of beauty – we have swans, butterflies and princesses – and how far someone can get on looks rather than talent. The act can appear that it is about to spiral into disaster and we are constantly assured by Ms Deprez that she isn’t actually funny, which – unsurprisingly – doesn’t do much to reassure those in the audience of a comedy show.
This is a high-risk manoeuvre and can lead to an increasingly antagonistic relationship between performer and audience. However it is a seam that has been mined for great riches by comics as varied as Tommy Cooper (Deprez’ acknowledged idol) and Stewart Lee. There is clearly plenty of comic potential to be had from working the unease that people feel when they are not entirely sure whether a show is going off the rails.
However it is important to understand this work in the context of clowning (although I suspect that there is a closer relationship to the Italian buffo and the figures from comic operas than traditional British notions of the clown) and that the comedy derives from pushing against the expectations of the audience.
Her act works best when she falls back on clowning and is given the freedom to present an imaginative silliness that allows the audience to work with her rather than against her. The show is strongest in the section when she walks through an imaginary forest and it begins to resemble an absurd fairytale. In these moments there is an infectious charm that is difficult to resist and we are drawn in by this knowingly naive figure that is on stage.
However there is a constant tension in the desire for the show to achieve more than this and take the audience into the realm of disquisition on the female form. Ms Deprez makes entirely valid points but never interrogates the issues particularly deeply, and as a result some nice moments lack the satisfying payoff they deserve.
The frustration is that there are quite possibly some interesting stories that Ms Deprez can draw on where her looks have created a conceptual barrier as to what she can do as a performer (I suspect Tommy Cooper impressions were not high up the list); yet what we are given are rather obvious points about beautiful woman being able to get away with anything and having sex whenever they want. That may be true but it is hardly ground-breaking satire.
Overall Marion Deprez Is Gorgeous feels like what it is; a show from a new performer testing the boundaries of what works in their act. There are some good ideas floating around, some poorer ones that can be quietly discarded and as a result I expect we will see Marion Deprez back next year, looking as gorgeous as ever, with a far more refined act.
Civilian Theatre is an Awards Partner Reviewer for the Mimetic Festival. For further enquiries please email firstname.lastname@example.org