Harriet Kemsley is a delight to watch on stage. Her slight awkwardness works for her and endears her to the audience in this show about her experiences of growing up as a woman and how they inform her new motherhood.
Honeysuckle Island is named after the imaginary island Kemsley would retreat to as a child, which she was reminded of while rifling through a basket of mementoes – which she even brings to the stage. Her show ranges from insightful observations about capitalistic marketing setting standards of unrealistic beauty to goofy gags, including dancing to a Vengaboys song (did that bring up some memories for the audience!). The bit that especially struck me – as it did her, she explains – is how as an eleven-year-old, Kemsley knew the word ‘cellulite’ as she’d drawn a corner devoted to it on her map of Honeysuckle Island.
Not one to shy away from bodily humour, Kemsley may surprise those who’ve only taken in her sweet voice and feminine dressing style. But that only adds to the layers of humour. Granted, not all the jokes land, as she admits herself. She does, however, generate big laughs and the show is entertaining throughout. You have to especially have to hand it to her for walking around stage the whole hour of the routine, holding in the big twist for the end, which would not have been the most comfortable experience for her. That’s commitment to art, folks.
Kemsley achieves a show filled with social commentary through a combination of silly and risqué humour as well as physical gags, thus having something for everyone. And the surprise reveals at the end are well worth the wait!