I am always nervous about one-person shows. They have the capacity to be exceedingly cringeworthy. Thankfully, Oddball (a one woman show written and performed by Francesca Forristal) is not. It certainly has moments of cringe comedy, designed to make one’s skin crawl, but they are intentional and expertly executed.
“Oddball just becomes a marvel as it unravels”
Delving into teenage years and struggles with Anorexia, Oddball is not just another soapbox sermon disguised as theatre. Every moment is theatrical. A smoothie of music, sketch and character comedy mixed with an honest helping of authentic narrative. Micha Mirto’s direction combined with Jordan Clarke and Forristal’s fantastic sound design goes a long way to elevate the piece into the realms of show. Whilst the stage is bare and utterly consumed by Forristal, who is a whirlwind of energy, every lighting and sound cue is so sharp that Oddball just becomes a marvel as it unravels.
Embedded in an honest and touching personal narrative are some truly great and pacy skits played out with aplomb by Forristal. The framing of “date night” allows for some creative segues into these and the character work is second to none. I’ve been lucky enough to see Forristal in her native Dragprov and was expecting some hearty laughs but it’s clear to see that her comedy chops are not being neglected and rightfully so.
Whilst it would be easy to dwell on the comedy and lighthearted nature of Oddball, it must be noted that at the core of this comedy is a struggle that many may not have had a chance to understand. The debilitating impact of eating disorders is a much discussed subject but Forristal’s writing throughout Oddball, and especially in the latter stages, illustrates a harrowing experience. The writing is so nuanced, and the pacing works so well to highlight it, that every nuance is poignantly weighted. One could comfortably walk away from Oddball and choose to remember the comedy but it’s unlikely that the root theme will not remain firmly embedded.
There’s so much to like and for a 75-minute show, so much I could talk about, but doing so would ruin some of the many surprises that Oddball brings.
Now, you have been idle whilst reading this review. I suggest you rectify that and go and see it.
Oddball is playing Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate as part of the Camden Fringe until the 24th August.
Image: Francesca Forristal