Felicity Ward in The Hedgehog Dilemma [FringeTIX]
Felicity Ward @ Le Cascadeur
8:30pm, Sat 18 Feb 2012
Le Cascadeur is looking pretty chockers once everyone squeezes in, and we’re running about twenty minutes late – which has me nervous, because I’ve got a fifteen minute gap between this show and the next, and I’m nervous about having to rely on The Garden’s loose definition of “on time”.
I’m safely ensconced in my favourite hidey-hole in Le Casca, and in front of me there’s a group of people discussing who to blame “if she’s shit… I’ve never heard of her.” One of the group – let’s call her SozzledGirl – notices that I’ve got a backrest, and sits next to me. “I’ve got lower back problems. Hey – I love the eighties,” she slurs to me when she hears The Power of Love being played, “what’s this song called?” I tell her the name, mention that it’s by Huey Lewis and The News, and throw in the snippet that it was one of three chart-topping songs with the same name within 18 months of each other. She relays the information to her friends – “this guy knows everything about the eighties” – and then proceeds to tell me she loves comedy… but fails to come up with any names of comedians she likes. As soon as the house lights dropped, SozzledGirl decided to touch up her lipstick, using her phone to provide illumination.
Felicity Ward pops onstage wearing a sleek wedding dress – her wedding dress, she assures us, before she takes a step back and talks about The Hedgehog Dilemma. The Dilemma, she explains, was not to do with the perils of spiky-animal sex (though she has a hilarious callback to that premise late in the show), but a term coined by Freud to describe a fear of human emotional intimacy.
And “emotional intimacy” forms the backbone of this performance, as Felicity recounts the breakdown of her eight-year relationship three weeks before their wedding, coupled with her battle with alcoholism and fractured family interactions. There’s an ascension as she travels to Edinburgh and has a wonderful encounter with a new beau; there’s heartbreak when he rejects her over distance. But then there’s the complete and utter joy that forms the tail of the show that makes you want to stand and applaud and scream in support of Felicity… it really is a lovely finish.
The Hedgehog Dilemma is a wonderfully constructed show – a consistent theme, great pacing, and some glorious twisting callbacks. And Felicity is just flat-out funny – her slight frame lends itself to an awkward physicality that she leverages wonderfully, and her ability to drift into different characters and voices is sublime – her sexy therapist voice and mannerisms are proper horn material. At first I was a little disappointed that it lacked the fractured manner of her earlier shows, but it’s just so well written that it doesn’t matter. And on this, the very first night that this show was performed, Felicity was on song – even with the mistimed audio cues, she made everything look intentional… and managed to turn a deeply personal tale into a torrent of cathartic laughter.
Make no mistake, this show is Felicity’s therapy now, and it’s incredibly brave of her to offer it up for all to see; but her confidence and talent just makes it all work, and there’s plenty of connection with the audience (well, there was for me, anyway). And I left the show elated… because this was one of the best stand-up shows I’ve seen for years.
Oh – and SozzledGirl? She reapplied lipstick three times during the show, constantly checked her phone, and spent a large amount of time looking for stuff on the floor. And kept asking me what words like “sporadic” meant. Bless.