For someone who is so used to taking off her clothes in public, this is an unusually vulnerable display from Ursula Martinez. She is well-known on the cabaret circuit and her shows leave little to the imagination. Indeed, her performances in the Olivier-award winning show La Soirée were simultaneously outrageous and sophisticated. Her new show, Free Admission, sees Martinez freely share a number of personal details, thoughts, feelings and opinions whilst flippantly constructing a brick wall. With a few breezeblocks and a trowel in hand, she undertakes a half conversation, half musing whilst cavalierly slapping cement onto the ever-growing construction. The magic here is that she has the audience captivated the entire time with a device that is as simple as it is effective.
“Sometimes, I’m convinced my ex-girlfriend used to fake not having orgasms”, “Sometimes, women are told to cover up because you wouldn’t leave raw meat uncovered”. Martinez’ subject matter covers a wide range of topics that seem so disparate in their delivery, but ultimately converge at the climax of the show. She talks about her arsehole, the death of her father, completing her tax returns; no subject is neither taboo nor revered. The whole thing may seem slapdash and ill-conceived (not unlike the way the cement is thrown onto the breezeblocks), but the delivery has pinpoint accuracy. Every glimpse, grin and pause hits home with maximum effect. Martinez pushes the boundaries of what is considered comfortable to just the right tipping point.
“…And that pisses me off”. Halfway through her endeavour Martinez lets rip her rage. From daily occurrences to more complex international injustices, she bluntly states her opinion with no fear of an impending backlash. As she stands behind the ever-growing wall, she creates a defence for herself that frees her to speak as she pleases. But the candour and honesty in her views is disarming – there is no animosity felt even if one may not directly agree with her opinion. A carefully placed wink and a devilish smile are the ultimate weapons in her arsenal to disarm and charm.
Her finale is more in keeping with her cabaret work, for which she receives rapturous applause. In an entirely nonchalant way, Martinez bares her soul and uncovers the true beauty within.
Free Admission is playing Soho Theatre until 20 February. For more information and tickets, see www.sohotheatre.com/ursula-martinez-free-admission