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Holly Morgan: Madonna or Whore?

at Assembly Roxy

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Hilarious pop culture cabaret with a point to make

Image of Holly Morgan: Madonna or Whore?

Fringe returnee Holly Morgan presents her new cabaret show, Madonna or Whore?, questioning Freud’s Madonna-whore complex which asserts that women are often seen by heterosexual men and society as falling into only one of two categories – the saintly virgin or the “soiled” prostitute. Having only sort of half-researched this – or so Morgan has us believe – she contemplates the theory via the soundtrack of pop legend Madonna. Obviously.

Morgan takes us on a journey through history, examining famed women from biblical times up to the modern era who exemplify the lunacy of the psychoanalytical theory: Lilith (middle-Eastern mythology), Henry VIII’s wives, Jack the Ripper‘s victims, even Fraulein Maria! However, this is cabaret, so rather than uninterrupted monologues that drone, Morgan bursts into song – and is a pitch-perfect singer – to capture key ideas with a wink. Abortion: Papa Don’t Preach. Misogyny: Express Yourself. Oppression of women: Joan of Arc (a lesser-known album track for only the stalwart Madonna fans perhaps).

The comedy works excellently. Morgan’s script is tight and delivers brilliant punchlines and smart observations, giving us space to laugh and to think. A notable feature of her shows is that she usually appears on stage with partner Tom Moores, acting in Madonna as a Jiminy Cricket-cum-court jester sidekick. The banter between them is perfectly timed and they manage to make audience participation fun to play along with as members of the crowd adorn themselves with felt merkins and choir robes – in context, and not at the same time.

The show rockets towards its hilarious singalong finale via an all-star diva impersonation-athon version of Vogue, complete with Moores providing the on-point background choreography. Okay, the segment might veer a little off-message, but Morgan’s impressions are dead-on and have the audience in kinks.

Madonna or Whore? combines the best aspects of good cabaret: great music, poignant topics, even a brutally honest denouement, and most importantly, a seriously funny star.

/ @matthewjkeeley


Matthew is a writer and teacher who studied English Literature and Film and TV Studies at the University of Glasgow. He has had short pieces of fiction published in various anthologies and his debut sci-fi novel, 'Turning the Hourglass', will be released by Black Rose Writing in April 2019. He is also a cat person.

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