Edinburgh Fringe Review: Jo Neary, Assembly Rooms ★★★★
In comedy there are people who change and people who hone one particular thing to the point of absolute perfection. John Shuttleworth is one of the latter and so, to a slightly lesser extent, is Jo Neary, who does diversify a bit.
The Brighton-based performer has been doing her Celia character – inspired by buttoned-up Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter – for well over a decade now, but this is the first time I have seen her do a full show just as Celia. The set-up is that she is hosting the Toxborough Village Hall Chat Show in aid of the Animal Hospital, aided by “Centre Parting” Martin on guitar. Most of the chat comes from Celia rather than any special guests though, but we are promised a rather significant conker.
It’s a piece that is such a beautifully observed slice of character comedy it might befuddle some people. Why on earth, for instance, is Celia singing a nostalgic ode to forgotten Britpop bands as if she is singing about air raids and the Blitz?
But this sense of dislocation is part of what makes Neary’s performance so captivating. She is like a woman from another era trying to get to grips with the modern world, but in her own very peculiarly repressed English way.
New technology is inevitably a rich source for humour here, but Neary has a very distinctive comic mind and also goes off at wild, unexpected tangents. Her interpretative dance is a delight and Martin is good value too, with an intriguing back story and a habit of playing unexpected acoustic power ballads.
There is a bit of non-aggressive audience interaction, but nothing to get scared of. This is a gloriously lo-fi show rather than an in-your-face chucklefest. The laughs might come in gentle ripples, but if you can tune into Celia’s wavelength they will stay with you long after the belly laughs of other shows.
Filed Under: Faceful Of Issues