Zumba Gold, written and performed by Amelia Gann, is an absolute joy. When one thinks of one woman shows, the Alex Borstein show from ‘Friends’ comes to mind. The onus is completely on that one actress to carry the show and few (in my experience) are able to carry it off. Gann absolutely smashes it.
Cathy wants one thing in life; to perform. However, she is currently stuck teaching a Zumba class. She wants to be famous and will do anything she can to manifest it.
The character of Cathy Campbell is brilliantly written. The audience encounters many sides to Cathy, with her outer being extremely high energy and enthusiastic in contrast to her desperate, dissatisfied inner, and also her teenage self. It is extremely easy to go over the top when writing a younger character; however, I can instantly identify teenage Cathy with the people I know who are exactly like that. She is described as “too much and too serious” and fixates on her dream of stardom.
Gann also plays some other parts, from Cathy’s partner to the other members of the Zumba Gold class. The complete madness of any community project is captured perfectly. Anyone who has taken part, led or worked in a community project can absolutely identify with the character and the story, so familiar and so true.
During Fringe theatre, it can sometimes feel as though “buzz subjects” are shoved in to be fashionable. The piece deals with intangible subjects surrounding identity. Anyone who shows interest in working in theatre or any artistic medium have at one point or another been discouraged – asked whether it is realistic, told there is no money in the arts, or simply that you just cannot achieve it. It is never easy to build a life around one thing and one thing only, and if the dream does not occur you are a failure. Gann explores this sense of personality being built around a dream, the arts “professional” career identity. The crisis which arises from this dream is explored to develop a full character with a beautiful twist of comedy.
Gann’s performance is extremely high energy with multiple levels moving seamlessly between Cathy’s outer visage to her inner monologue and between the different characters, capturing their physicality, vocals and age. The numerous strong characters naturally flow from one to the other without any obvious tell-tale signs. Dancing is extremely rough at the best of times let alone when switching between different characters and balancing a mic all at once. My hat off to Gann!
As the onus is all on one person, sometimes over-compensating with technology feels necessary and can be too much for the audience. This is not the case; all lighting changes are necessary, not too flashy and suit the piece perfectly. Zumba conjures up a lot of different images, but the music is absolutely iconic. The soundtrack is upbeat, fun and leaves you ready for the next tune! Dancing is a core aspect to the piece and well-timed cues help the piece run smoothly at an excellent pace.
Zumba Gold is an absolute joy of work, an uplifting and hilarious story identifiable to anyone who has ever wanted to perform. An incredible performance by Gann who skilfully tells the story and captivates the audience. Not only is this one of the best one woman shows that I have ever seen, it comfortably goes in my list of top Fringe shows ever seen. It truly is the pleasure of The Pleasance.
Zumba Gold played at Pleasance Courtyard until 15 August, 2021. For more information, see the Pleasance Theatre website.