Natalie Diddams’s Thesmophoriazusae is a series of comedy sketches re-imagined from the Athenian playwright Aristophanes. Energetically performed by two women, Diddams’s show ignores the plot in favour of chosen themes of the original play. The jokes swept from fluid to sharp and had the audience in fits of laughter. Performers Joey Holden and Naomi Sheldon invade box office space, surprising and delighting the audience before whisking them inside the theatre like two halves of Hamlin.
From the onset, we are told it is an all-girl show. Men are subjected to mild humiliation which resonates with the Athenian play. I found it ironic that a play which intends on exploring women’s comedy and performance without any contamination from men, the topic of men finds its way into the dialogue and narration in every sketch. Nowadays, masculine clothing on a woman might not be as noticeable as Ancient Greece, but a bowler hat is gratifying to bring back my favourite character of Holden.
There is something quite unique and intriguing to see Naomi and Joey working in comedic tandem, given time and the professional support, it would not surprise me if they reached the heights of French and Saunders. For the moment, this play is described as a work in progress. From sketches akin to Vagina Monologues to Miranda-styled antics by Naomi Sheldon mocking to-do lists that women bind themselves to, one can see a lot of promise for this show. Presenting female characters in hysterics and in need of protection from themselves may be a little safe and stereotypical, but it had the audience entertained throughout.
Currently, the use of performers from minority backgrounds is a sensitive topic. I couldn’t help overhearing an audience member make comments about this before the play. One has to remember this is a two woman show and the Woman’s Comedy Club is open to all women from all backgrounds. Nevertheless, having seen this in Bradford, and learning that it was developed in locally, I couldn’t help wonder why the sketches didn’t tease recent feminist perspectives of minority backgrounds, like how women use hijab to assert their freedoms, while others deem this an affront to their freedoms. We live in a post-modern feminist world, reinterpreting the old to the new for the foreseeable future. It would be wonderful to see how Diddams will make full use of it.
Reviewed 21 November 2015. A work in progress.