Joanna Neary: Faceful of Issues

★★★
comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 08 Aug 2015

You can understand why acts like (the often dark) David O’Doherty and (the frequently furious) Josie Long get annoyed at being called ‘whimsical’, when the Fringe also caters for shows like this. Faceful of Issues is whimsy-full, intensity-free character comedy carried off with unapologetic elan by Joanna Neary. The gifted actress/comic has appeared in an impressive cross-section of British TV comedy over the years, from Time Trumpet to Miranda, while never quite nailing the breakthrough role. This probably isn’t it either, but serves as a useful showcase all the same.

Neary plays Celia, a devoted housewife unexpectedly flung into the Fringe when a play pulls out, due to interpersonal issues and an inadequately tacked-down stair carpet. Husband and co-performer Fred is then also indisposed, but she does have a secret weapon: musical companion Centre-Parting Martin. Celia gives a pretty lifelike approximation of how your mum might fill a Fringe hour, full of odd stories, an awkward chat show, a couple of songs and some bric-a-brac.

It’s not entirely without edge, as the sharpest gags tend to be shocking diversions into filthy talk, sexy-dancing or Martin’s subtly splendid ukulele metal classics. But while diverting, Celia’s world just isn’t quite distinctive enough. An unlikely song about Britpop is so similar to Vic Reeves’ 'I Remember Punk Rock' that it could be a homage, while the him-indoors angle is as aged as Fred himself.

Celia may not progress far beyond this stage, then, but there’s enough verve in the performance to suggest that Neary needn’t remain a nearly-woman.