Hero is an almost sequel to Maria Shehata’s 2017 show Wisdomless. In her debut, the Egyptian-American relocated from Los Angeles to London in the name of love. The best example yet of her reckless approach to life. After some perfunctory opening crowd work, she picks up the tale again. She begins by revealing that the relationship sadly didn’t work out. “We worked better as a couple 6000 miles apart,” she explains.
Instead, Shehata found herself cohabiting with an 83-year-old spinster named Connie, rich in worldly wisdom but cynical about love; a not-entirely unreasonable position for someone who maintained their virginity into old age to take. You suspect that this scenario will form the crux of the tale, but this is just another service station on the pinball tour of Shehata’s recent past. There’s little time spent in teasing out the comic potential of any particular moment, and no light shed on the show’s title or the message behind it. Is Connie the hero? Herself? Her father?
Shehata’s conservative family crops up repeatedly during her show. Her father is a figure of love but has the sternness of his Coptic Christian culture and his daughter’s choice of career isn’t what he had in mind. Doctor or lawyer, of course. A performer? That’s a hard one to deal with. A device Shehata adopts of having her overbearing pops ‘call’ her during the show is one that’s been done before and fits better into a more structured and performative show. Here it simply breaks the flow of her story. There’s also another call later in the show which she ignores. Is that part of the show, or a genuine caller? It’s a baffling moment.
Shehata has an assertively pleasant demeanour that cheerfully barrels through any jokes that fall flat or observations that don’t quite stick. Her earnest spark and perky enthusiasm are nice enough, and you would be happy to hear about her life in an informal setting. However, while her litany of questionable decisions made in pursuit of some intangible happiness is amusing in their own right, there is a dearth of jokes of any actual solidity.
Hero is another show at the Tolbooth Market that concludes well within its scheduled run-time of an hour but it doesn’t feel like it’s been trimmed or tightened correspondingly. Maria Shehata certainly inspires goodwill, possessed as she is with a wide-eyed optimism that carries her through in defiance of general audience indifference. However, her loose, conversational style approach needs some bigger laughs as tougher connective tissue.