Cate Jacobs went along to a night of comedy with Liz Bentley giving a one-woman theatrical show with stories from a year in her life.
Who wears gold lame trousers, orange nail varnish and 6” Primark bondage sandals with peep toes? Liz Bentley! She is seated on stage beside a table that is littered with a variety of props for her show; books and a riot of paraphernalia that describe her life.
She hits the ground running, even though she sits for the entire performance, and you tumble at break neck speed through the events that defined 2011 for her. Comic stories are interspersed with poems and songs, as she accompanies herself on the ukulele and Casio keyboard - which she claims to have bought in Toys-R-Us for £2.99!
AAA stands for Age, Anxiety and Alzheimer’s - no prizes for guessing the general topics for her acerbic wit! There are no edges to Bentley. She not only says it as it is, but says it as most people wouldn’t dare say it. Her humour is as outrageous as her gold lame trousers!
At the beginning of the show she cleverly asks a somewhat reticent audience if there’s anything we would rather she didn’t talk about, or that is likely to cause offence. We are still ‘cold’ and uncertain of what’s in store. One thing’s for sure, you don’t draw attention to yourself when there’s a comedian upfront, otherwise you stand every chance of becoming the butt end of their jokes all night! There is a general murmuring and shaking of heads as the audience assents and Ms Bentley is granted carte blanche to say and do as she chooses. After all, when she was polite enough to ask first, how can you object to what she goes on to say!
When two women leave - not something you can do discreetly when you have to pass the performer to get to the exit - she breaks her flow, following them in a one-sided conversation all the way to the door. After a couple of seconds of silence she launches into a fantasy of why they left and what they might be up to now, and we’re off again. Oddly the women who left, are now more present in their absence than if they had stayed, making several guest appearances in other gags later in the show!
Liz Bentley’s poetry style is very straightforward and reflects her ‘say it as it is’ approach. She takes reality and holds it up with a quizzical tilt of her head that seems to ask “what’s that about then?”
She says and sings the messy reality of life with the ease of your best mate having a gossip down the pub on a Friday night. If anything let her down it was the theatre setting, which was a touch too formal for her style and left me wishing that we were sitting in the bar, having a pint with her as she entertained us.
Liz Bentley is a woman who is 120% her Essex self and that’s what you get from start to finish - 120%. You walk away smiling and uplifted, sure in the knowledge that if she can laugh, despite the adversities of life, then so can you!