Angry, absurd, and very funny
Carnage with purpose. That’s something I can get behind. When you walk out the room after Natalie Palamides’s debut show, Laid, it’s impossible not to gawp at the stage, which has been left an unholy mess. It looks like a bomb has gone off in a bakery. Most comics who achieve this kind of end result, do so having gone absolutely nowhere over the previous 60 minutes. But Palamides isn’t most comics. Instead, her absurdist comedy show has real substance. She puts the nature of womanhood under the spotlight – how women are biologically and culturally defined by motherhood, and are also condemned to feel guilty, regardless of what choices they make about their body and their life.
And what an artistically eloquent way of expressing this Palamides has found. She emerges from a huge foamy egg egg, zooms through puberty, gets on with her day in good ole’ southern America, before laying an egg and agonising over whether to raise it or fry it up in a pan she has hissing away on stage. This cycle is then repeated several times before, eventually, she decides to raise one of the eggs, which brings about a whole new set of difficulties.
There’s plenty more to it than that, of course, and Palamides’s gravitation towards destruction and gross-out stunts makes it a visual feast. But it all serves that central purpose, and provides many laugh-out-loud moments along the way. It reaches a wild climax when, having got us all to sympathise with this (real) egg as her beloved child, Palamides initiates a game of catch with it, between her and a few audience members.
As it happens, Palamides’s audience work is something that really stands out in Laid, and marks her out as being far from just a conceptual comedian, if anyone was wondering. She teases people into playing a part in the show, whether it’s as her postman, a teacher, or the father of her little egg. And when things started to go a little awry – tonight the “teacher” started misbehaving and almost picked an argument with Palamides – she has the wit and charm to keep the show on track.
It feels like the show of a real artist, who happens to have comedy as her chosen medium. I can just as easily imagine Laid finding its expression as a surrealist painting, the existential anger sloshed on to the canvas. In fact, if you stick a frame on the floor around all the detritus at the end of the show, that’s what you’d have.
Palamides won Best Newcomer at this year’s Edinburgh for Laid, and it’s easy to see why. It has brains, it has has balls, and it has funnybones. It’s also bizarre yet accessible, which isn’t an easy trick to pull off. In particular, any comedy fans who are missing the works of Claudia O’Doherty and Dr Brown (who directed this show), should drop everything and go. But really it comes recommended to one and all – just watch out for the flying eggs.
Review written by Paul Fleckney