Stoke-born Beth Vyse, the former RSC actress turned comedian, returns to Edinburgh once again with her routine that looks at her extraordinary battle with breast cancer.
Walking into a comedy show that is billed as an exploration of cancer, the last thing you’d expect is to find a woman in a blond Dolly Parton-style wig wearing large fake rubber breasts, standing on stage handing out ping-pong balls and asking the small audience of 13 to become part of the experience. Neither do the two unsuspecting audience members, who are cajoled into playing her small Chinese Dr Chan, with her large forehead; and her boyfriend, Michael Jackson from Reading, who is given an MJ mask and oven glove and asked to speak in a high pitch voice. ‘It’s a dream’ we are told. They’re probably wishing it had been.
It’s a very
surreal show, which is Vyse’s style, but won’t have mass appeal. The audience hear about the “cancer journey”, from her new boyfriend finding the lump, to the traumatic chaos of her first MRI after she was diagnosed, to having to choose which nipples she wanted for her breast reconstruction after her mastectomy and the fact that her boyfriend at the time was named Michael Jackson (from Reading) and was someone she’s met on a bus to Dulwich, who saved her from the taunts of some youths.
During a scene re-enacting the fertility treatment she and her boyfriend go through, a giant inflatable penis is brought out and the audience have to throw ping-pong balls and fire water pistols at her to symbolise semen. The show ends with her taking off her top to reveal her black nippled left breast and asking the audience to join her in crowd surfing. It’s all rather uncomfortable and silly.
Beth Vyse is using comedy to ‘get things off her chest’ (her joke not mine), to explore a subject that at the heart of it isn’t very funny. The show may work if surreal comedy is your thing, but other performances dealing with a similar subject have treated the topic with more intelligence and wit.