Beth Vyse's Ed Fringe solo show As Funny As Cancer — showing on select days at 5.45pm at Gilded Balloon's the Counting House — is the perfect outlet for the skills of this versatile and consistently energetic performer. A surreal opening (that involves a Michael Jackson mask, a hell of a load of ping pong balls and a single oven glove) sets the scene for a brash performance from the comedian and former-RSC actress, which gives way to a weighty but perfectly pitched show as the piece transpires.
You never quite know what to expect with Vyse and the mix of fantasy, reality, darkness, humour and not-quite-sure provides the chance to really look at the standard response to cancer, and more widely 'serious topics' with the people we love. What response is right? Is there one rule? Of course not. We continue to fumble around for one nonetheless.
The deliberately provocative title prepared me for a more laugh-a-minute, standardly shocking piece — gags about the ridiculous elements, the stupid comments, the indignity — but this goes deeper, Vyse confidently pulling back from any call for laughs in certain moments. At points in the show she enters full actress mode, delivering straight-forward accounts of the time, five years ago, at the age of 28, when she was told she had breast cancer. In others, she lets rip. A scene in the fertility clinic, enormous hen do-style inflatable handed to a very amenable audience member, leads to raucous belly laughs. Some moments elicit a nervous snigger.
The structure itself is haywire, and is in need of polishing in points, but it seems to capture the uncertainty and downright world-shattering nature of the subject matter well. By the end, on Vyse's ridiculously upbeat departure from the stage, it proves to be a real tear-jerker.
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Aug 11-14, 16-28. 5.45pm. More details and tickets here.