In as pleasant words as I can put it, sometimes people aren’t that great. Alice Marshall might say it in a slightly more ‘lyrical’ way. Her new show Vicious played at Kings Head Theatre, giving us a snapshot at the darker side of human nature. It’s one of the better talking head shows you’re likely to see off the beaten track, with some excellent characterisations from Marshall holding everything together.
There’s a problem though – Alice Marshall is dead. However, long live her replacement, self-help guru and the most aggressive TED Talks speaker you’re likely to meet, Greta Medina. Medina’s presentation provides the through-line of Vicious, exploring the term itself throughout day to day life, in relationships, employment and the like. It’s also a way of us meeting some pretty extraordinary characters. We’ve got Unity de la Touch, hands down the worst Mother of the Year, and Louise, the very reserved type just looking for that special someone. Maria is my favourite, the embodiment of the resentment we imagine all air hostesses to hold (she pelts pretzels at the patrons with glee), whilst Medina herself is loud, proud and utterly terrifying in the best sort of way.
Interspersed between each character (and costume change), are short little video snippets featuring Medina and the woes of the general public. The worst of exes, dates and parents are all covered in some genuinely funny anecdotes, with the highlight being one guy with an inexplicable hatred of Sting. These moments are great little breaks from the action. The material is pretty solid stuff, if a little tenuously linked together. In essence it’s more of a compilation of character skits as opposed to a cohesive production, but it works based on the strength of the jokes. Standout moments include Maria’s amended voice-over to an old airline safety video, and a certain lucky audience member (yours truly) gets to experience a first date with Louise – it’s uncomfortably entertaining to say the least. None of the audience are safe really; the majority were put through the ringer by the end, but it’s all in good jest.
Vicious is a strong showcase of Marshall’s talent. All four characters are completely unique, displaying her knack for accents and physical performance, whilst her comic timing is very impressive. Most of the big laughs come from Marshall’s reaction to something, especially when she’s playing off her audience. She’s clearly a very confident performer, who I’m sure we’re going to see an awful lot more of in the future.
Let’s be fair, Vicious doesn’t deliver much in the way of commentary. What it does deliver is an enjoyable hour with some very original characterisations. Marshall’s talent for comedy is evident, and any quibbles with storytelling don’t detract from what is a strong end product. A lighthearted approach to a very dark subject, but one that undoubtedly works.
Alice Marshall: Vicious played at the Kings Head Theatre until November 19.