Performer: Ursula Martinez
Director: Mark Whitelaw
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Venue: New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich
Sometimes we need to knock down walls, sometimes we need to build them. Sometimes we can do both at the same time.
That may sound a paradox, but for Ursula Martinez building a wall gives her the protection to bare all – literally.
Martinez begins with a preshow talk, explaining that ideally she’d have liked to have performed a show about us, her audience, but the box office wouldn’t provide her with data to allow her to digitally stalk us. Instead, she informs us, the show will be about her, with some generic research stats that we can ‘insert’ ourselves ‘appropriately in’ – as she points out, one should never insert oneself inappropriately!
Clad in a white two-piece trouser suit, high heels and sparkling necklace, Martinez seems the unlikely successor to Handy Andy or Tommy Walsh, but as she heads behind a window she fondles a trowel seductively before beginning to brick herself in with some skill.
Martinez proves to be as adept with mortar and brickwork as she is with the acidic one-liner, as she proceeds to lay course, after course, of breezeblocks. As each block is laid she regales us with a truth, memory or opinion from her life.
Each prefaced with a ‘sometimes’ they range from the hilarious (her frequently being mistaken for Catherine Tate), to the risqué (tales of school sex education talks on masturbation), to the more darker revelations around school ground racism.
These revelations are pitched into the mix perfectly. We never know if we should be laughing or shocked into silence. Martinez herself never judges, she sits firmly on the wall she is building, aware of the divide some of her words cause but never coming down on either side.
It’s a piece of meticulously planned writing and performance, a reflection on today’s social media obsession with sharing every minute detail of our lives. It is though also something deeper, a look at self-image, our struggle to find our own path and the joyous chaos of life.
As Martinez completes her wall she is determined not to be walled in herself and shedding her clothes she first takes a bow before heading out into the street (accompanied by a video camera) to startle passers-by.
It’s a brave act but one in keeping with a performer who has already bared her soul on stage in a witty and engaging hour of sharing. DIY SOS will never be the same again!
Reviewed on 3 June 2016 | Image: Contributed