After welcoming a busy crowd into the cramped Pleasance Cellar with the Dreamgirls tune that is her show’s namesake, Naomi Petersen presents an energetic hour of sketches and songs. Her first solo show at the Fringe, I Am Telling You I’m Not Going is best summed up as character comedy apparently inspired by Petersen’s own experiences, liberally dotted with piano-playing and touches of the absurd.
Petersen has previously worked with the improv organisation The Free Association, and that improv influence can be clearly seen here; she takes every opportunity to jump into hilarious scenarios, including one truly melodramatic Pizza Express scene. Playing various characters from a grandfather to a vengeful restaurant-owner, Petersen’s enthusiasm when acting out increasingly ridiculous events is contagious, and she soon has the audience laughing, cheering and cringing as appropriate. The show takes the occasional turn into darker material – there is one awful French exchange experience – but a sense of fun pervades.
Although enjoyable, the barrage of scenes does seem a bit flimsily connected at times, and the intriguingly meta premise of I Am Telling You I’m Not Going – an agoraphobic performer living in her venue must put on a show – is mostly abandoned in favour of more conventional gags. After marketing her Fringe show as one of the growing number that address mental health issues, it is a shame that Petersen does not give these issues more prominence in her performance. The living-in-a-theatre theme is also interesting, and it deserves to be developed beyond the inclusion of a few props.
However, Petersen’s chaotic energy and comedic skill ensures that her sketches go down well with the audience. The show’s failure to commit to its theme may be disappointing, but I Am Telling You I’m Not Going is nevertheless the Fringe debut of a promising performer.