[2014014] Claire Ford: ConsciousMess

[2014014] Claire Ford: ConsciousMess

Claire Ford @ Austral Hotel – Red Room

8:45pm, Sat 15 Feb 2014

Occasionally, I see a show that I really want to like, but simply cannot – for reasons beyond the control of the artist.

This show was one such instance. Despite having no knowledge of Ford’s work (she’s apparently done a bit of work on TV), I’m willing to take a chance on a bit of character-based comedy – and she certainly brought a bunch of curious characters to the performance. And, as the small crowd entered the Red Room (still sticky after the heat and rain of the last few days), Ford stomped around the stage wearing flippers and a goggle/snorkel combo making indecipherable muffled mutterings. Lights down, she starts throwing sopping wet tennis balls from a bowl of water at the audience, beckoning for their return after effectively splattering their targets.

It is, it must be said, a thoroughly WTF-ish start to proceedings.

Ford then cycled through a series of bizarre characters – the spaced-out grapefruit girl, a French Satan (or was it Friend-of-Satan?) who harbours a pathological dislike of spoons, and small-town celebrity wannabe Terri Skyler. They’re all curious characters, interesting in their own right…

…but they’re let down by the room. The PA in the Red Room has Ford’s voice coming across as boomy, making it difficult to follow a lot of her monologues; the pre-recorded audio that is pivotal to a lot of her sketches is almost unintelligible.

And – worse – the crowd is awful.

Two pairs of reviewers (and their comps), plus another couple who bought tickets at the door, sat there cross-armed and stony-faced. Ford’s attempt to get them involved with a game of mimed hopscotch failed to crack their sullen faces. And I sat there and tried to give as much laughter and positivity as I could… but, in the end, one person’s positivity isn’t able to overcome the negativity of six.

And that is a massive, massive shame, because I reckon there’s more than enough oddball nuttery in Claire Ford to get a room rolling with laughter. But it was never going to be this Red Room, and it was never going to be this stiff-lipped audience.

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