London-based actor Constance Wookey brings to The Bunker her one-woman show Connie Wookey: Denied Under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a compelling autobiographical tale of her life as an actor in the US, of her problems with immigration regulations, and of a malfunctioning plane. Part storytelling, part cheeky covering of hit songs, part stand-up, Wookey manages to make light of pretty tragic situations in creative and hilarious ways.
A portion of the success of the show lied in its technical simplicity. The show is performed with the help of a keyboard, and a few toys as props. Wookey carries the weight effortlessly, balancing between telling stories and creating a sort of expectation when she plays the keyboard: which song is next? What are the lyrics going to be like? From Adele’s ‘Hello’ to Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, from a song dedicated to actor friends better than yourself, to another one dedicated to those who wink at waitresses in pubs, the musical aspect of the show keeps moving the play forward and provides some of its funniest moments (even though sometimes it was difficult to hear the lyrics over the music). Lightning is also used effectively throughout, highlighting the transitions between episodes, songs and the overarching story of the fateful trip to a funeral on a doomed plane.
Wookey gives an engaging and entertaining performance. She is naturally hilarious, with occasional great bits of deadpan delivery. Even though The Bunker is a spacious venue, Wookey manages to create an intimate atmosphere, as if we are a group of friends spending the evening together. Below the light comedy surface, however, Denied Under Section 221(g) deals with some very current and serious topics. The show discusses the ordeal of US immigration laws and visa applications, and although it does so from a comedy point of view, it relates it, for instance, to race and gender. Similarly, a (real) case of sexual assault is mentioned, sensitively yet lightly, in relation to Wookey’s experience of the Women’s March in the US; and some offensive behaviour towards women is called out in a joking/serious way. Even her stories about job precarity as an actor, are all too real for most in the industry.
Connie Wookey: Denied Under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act is an enjoyable comedy show. It is fresh and inventive, it feels current and immediate, and it is superbly performed. The mix of songs and storytelling is a success, and a lot is achieved from an apparently simple premise. It is a great example of less is more, and of the power of a good story.
Connie Wookey: Denied Under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act played at The Bunker on November 26, 2018. For more information, click here.