After her success at last year’s Fringe with the surprisingly funny and personal What If There Is No Toilet?, Felicity Ward is back, this time focussing on mental rather than physical health. Discussing her experience of her anxiety disorder and her methods of coping with it, Ward covers the positives and pitfalls of hypnosis, the desire to always be in control, and the meaningless statistics commonly featured in self-help books. A particularly annoying one spawned the show’s title; reading out a statement that ‘people with mental health problems are 50% more likely to die’, Ward demands, baffled, ‘Compared to who?!’
After a week of Fringe shows by less experienced comedians, watching Ward feels like a relief. She has an incredible stage presence, simultaneously frantic and assured – she talks at about a hundred words a minute, conversing occasionally with the audience, while always remaining completely in control. Her voice is loud and her comic timing excellent, while the prop of an air horn punctuates the show, bringing some welcome silliness.
This mixture of the silly and the serious, part of what made last year’s show so distinctive, continues throughout 50% More Likely To Die. Linking the performance together with a story about how she reacted to losing her bag on a journey, Ward takes various amusing digressions that allow her to display her various comedic skills. A section poking fun at the passive-aggressive facial expressions of Londoners on public transport is brilliant, while a session of “Chicken Karaoke” (this can’t be explained, only experienced) has little relevance but is childishly, unapologetically hilarious. The topic of anxiety is handled well, with Ward choosing to end the show on a relatively upbeat note without skimming over issues.
An exciting hour of thoughtful comedy, 50% More Likely To Die further establishes Ward’s reputation as one of the comedy highlights of the Fringe. She’s an undeniably talented comedian – and an excellent chicken impersonator.