Review: Mrs Barbara Nice: Fun Smugglin’, Assembly Rooms, George Street

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MRS Barbara Nice has lost her umbrella . . . ella . . . ella. It’s OK, though, we’ve all “blown” in her direction and told her: “Let it go, Barbara.” But can she?

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Around this simple premise, character comedienne Janice Connolly builds her hour-long 2012 Fringe show.

It’s a show that literally takes audience members on a journey, from the plush Assembly Rooms to the crowded 
pavements of George Street, as her middle-aged Stockport housewife (and mother-of-five) attempts to smuggle a little fun back into our lives.

Connolly’s approach to her craft is perfection. There are no rants – well, maybe just a little one about Sir Paul McCartney’s face. There’s no swearing, unless you count piggin’, and no offensive gags. On the surface, it appears to be nothing more than gentle comedy. Look deeper, however, and her material has a real bite.

Connolly understands the psychology of performing and deftly plays her audience who, within minutes, are her friends. Consequently, when she does let loose the odd barbed comment, some are left genuinely open-mouthed. Did this lovely old lady with a penchant for TAB (Take A Break) magazine really just say that?

Opening with a riff about her newly-refurbished venue, Mrs Nice then gives her “ordinary” person’s take on the 
Olympic opening ceremony, ageism and the Eurovision Song Contest, complete with malapropisms along the way.

Connolly, best known as Holy Mary in Phoenix Nights, understands that real comedy is about trust. As such, the show is built around her interaction with her new “friends”. From sharing the contents of her and audience members’ handbags to the incredible sight of an “older lady” crowd surfing, we are all as much a part of the show as Connolly 

Fun smugglin’ is her aim. She succeeds, leaving audience members with faces sore from laughing. Character comedy does not come better than this.

Until Saturday