Written and performed by Candy Gigi, Candy is, in a word, unsatisfied. She lives the ‘orthodox Jewish lifestyle’ as prescribed by her mother: weekly Friday night dinners – Shabbat, an arranged (albeit loveless) marriage to her long-suffering husband David, sending her underwear to her Rabbi so he can declare her period over, the list goes on. But Candy longs for more. She longs for fame, for stardom, for her name on the front page of The Jewish Chronicles. All this to relive her shining moment as winner of Borehamwood’s Got Talent and become the female lead in Borehamwood Community Theatre’s production of Sunset Boulevard. She dreams of being the ‘Jewish Barbra Streisand’. Friday Night Sinner! is a horror-comedy musical demonstrating the grotesque, energetic, full-on exposé, detailing what Gigi would do for her chance at glory.
Upon entering the auditorium, ushers urge audience members to scan a QR code detailing a content warning for this production – a warning that proves itself necessary within minutes. This performance is not for the faint-hearted. Gigi uses shock value and grotesque imagery in spades, with plenty of phallic props such as a large puppet of a vulva, the voice of God channeled through a vibrating male appendage, biting into a raw onion, spitting and dribbling, getting up close and personal with the audience, and spraying a variety of ‘bodily fluids’ into the audience, just to name a few. This filthy shock-value type humour works well on many occasions throughout the production. The content being presented is gritty and fairly taboo, so such absurdity is welcomed and surprising, encouraging the audience to laugh along. However, some of said demonstrations feel unsavoury and purely for shock-values sake. Contemporary theatre such as this is encouraged to push the boundaries and disrupt what we expect of a show, yet there comes a point where boundaries are pushed for the sake of being surprising. This production straddles this line so precariously, it arguably tips over it.
Easily the standout feature of this show is the music. Composer and musical director Jordan Paul Clarke struck gold with the score. Themes of traditional Jewish music, classic musicals, and musical comedy run so seamlessly throughout, it provides the perfect backing to Gigi’s vocal performance. For such physically demanding content, Gigi handles it with ease and sings beautifully throughout. Well-written, amusing and outrageous lyrics range from a showstopping ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ style number, a worrying ballad for her unborn daughter, and a sing-along about Hitler, all delivered with conviction and a passionate and successful vocal performance.
Props are a heavily featured component of this show. We move from food to adult toys to puppets of genitalia. Created by Annie Brooks, these provocative puppets were expertly crafted, and are used successfully to reiterate expectations of Orthodox Jewish women with hyperbole and humour. While generally successful, the set feels somewhat crowded. This cluttered aesthetic, while mostly key to the plot is cumbersome and slightly disordered, presenting the performance with a few mishaps with said props. It all becomes a touch distracting, yet credit where its due, Gigi handles these with comedic responses and uses them to her advantage, adding to her comedic take on situations and contributing to the chaos that this show makes its mantra.
Thoroughly crude, physical and amusing, Friday Night Sinner! is an acquired taste, but will definitely treat you to a new experience unlike most theatre trips. Though a strong stomach is necessary!
Written by: Candy Gigi
Directed by: Valentina Ceschi
Musical direciton and composition by: Jordan Paul Clarke
Set and costume design by: Becky-Dee Trevenen
Lighting design by: Lucy Hansom
Puppets by: Annie Brooks
Candy Gigi: Firday Night Sinner! plays at Soho Theatre until 20 May. Further information and bookings can be found here.