Pros: Something different from your standard stand-up comedy routine.
Cons: You either get it or you don’t: there’s no middle ground.
I’m beginning to think I’ve missed something. I’ve done something I rarely do and gone elsewhere to look at other people’s thoughts on this show before writing this review. From my research it seems that I may well have, indeed, missed something. Others have written positive reviews and interpreted this show quite differently to how I see it. We all know that theatre, and comedy in particular, is extremely subjective. What to one person is incredible, the very next may see as two hours of their life that they won’t be getting back. I’m afraid to say that I fall somewhere in between these two categories: I just didn’t ‘get’ Rachel Mars: The Way You Tell Them.
Rachel Mars is a comedian who is in search of the reason people want to be funny and use humour in certain situations. She presents moments of her life which have sparked her curiosity about comedy, such as an incident at her grandfather’s funeral where the coffin lid fell off and the ensuing commotion was laughed at by some in the congregation and mortified others. This opens up questions about why we laugh and whether doing so makes uncomfortable situations acceptable. To me, it sounded like a potentially interesting look at our psyche and how we use and abuse humour to deal with life. But this sixty minute show asks a lot of questions without giving any answers.
I thought there would be more stand-up, but that doesn’t seem to be the aim of the show. There are a few short scripted jokes and quips but not a full on routine, so don’t expect a full stand-up performance. Mars explains comedy techniques as she uses them, breaking down the ways comedians make us laugh and this results in many funny parts no longer being funny – a joke explained is never quite the same.
Part of the problem I had with it is that much of it felt too scripted. Some parts simply consist of Mars chatting to the audience about her life and background, and how this has resulted in her being where she is today. Then there are the very scripted sections, which seem too rehearsed, and perfected down to the impeccably timed raised eyebrow or a certain number of breaths into the microphone.
If you were willing, you could look more deeply into this show and draw more meaning from it. But having spent a day thinking it over, I felt it didn’t ask or answer enough questions about comedy. Much of what is said and done in the show feels like the kind of thing which would make you laugh hysterically if you were at home with your friends, but doesn’t make sense if you try to explain it to someone who wasn’t there. The anecdotes were neither funny enough to make you laugh, nor uncomfortable enough to make you giggle nervously. Interestingly, I found myself laughing a couple of times because I felt uncomfortable that no one else was.
Author: Rachel Mars
Director: Jamie Wood
Booking Information: This show is currently on tour. Future shows on May 3rd at Machynlleth Comedy Festival and May 15th at Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Details at http://www.rachelmars.org/the-way-you-tell-them.html