Writer: Sonia Jalaly
Director: Ruby Thompson
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Violet Fox is a performance artist. Welcome to her autobiographical show about every childhood birthday her mother ruined through a combination of alcohol and melancholy.
Violet Fox has a fertile imagination. As mum passes out in a chair, little Violet imagines a world where her musical diva heroes turn up and serenade her.
Violet Fox is a full-blown emotional mess.
Fox is the genius creation of Sonia Jalaly, actress and comedian, and Happy Birthday Without You is a delightfully funny hour of offbeat comedy that makes some sharp observations on performance art, parental relationships and Piaf. Jalayly has created a show out of a seeming mish-mash of ideas. Miming to songs, anecdotes, musical numbers, poetry, lots of crazy props. It could be a mess of a show yet it all holds together beautifully and Jalayly’s brisk delivery keeps the story moving at quite a pace. Jalaly’s deliciously dark sense of humour is deeply embedded in the writing but what really makes this show fly is her fantastic physical performance. She has the most marvellously expressive face and her physical comedy is reminiscent of silent films. It’s rare to find such skilled visual comedy in female comedians and it makes her mesmerising to watch.
But that’s not all. Jalayly also manages to deliver some pretty spectacular musical numbers in the guise of Violet’s musical diva spirits. Conjured by her unhappy soul, Marilyn, Judy, Julie, Carol and Shirley all make convincing appearances as Jalayly belts out Happy Birthday is each chanteuse’s inimitable style. She’s not just a great mimic, she’s got quite a voice.
The dark brick cellar of Joshua Brooks is the perfect setting for this satirical take on alternative performance. It feels like a place where creative discoveries are made and Jalayly, a relatively recent graduate, really is one. Happy Birthday Without You is looking like a sell-out show so plenty of people have already made the discovery. It’s likely to be one of the highlights of the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival. Grab a ticket while you can.
Runs until 19 July 2014