An incredible tale of overcoming intense sickness and still having a sense of humour about it, ‘Madame Ovary’ is a triumphant, hilarious, and victoriously touching show, led by the very talented Rosa Hesmondhalgh.
The show starts simply enough – a girl jogging on the spot informs us she has taken it upon herself to get into shape, to value her friends and family more, and to be a better person. She is fresh out of drama school, trying to find love, and two weeks into a month-long yoga program, which she knows she will quit. While preparing for a Tinder date, excessive bloating and pain forces her to A&E.
Days later, Hesmondhalgh is informed she has a rare form of ovarian cancer and must start chemotherapy immediately. This is a shock to the audience. The first fifteen minutes had been full of light-hearted, relatable jokes typical of a one-woman comedy show from the point of view of a millennial living in London. She maintains that she worries she is the next ‘Fleabag’. It is this unique, health-centred theme that makes the shows brilliance, and how Hesmondhalgh uses it in performance.
There are various musical interludes, great use of projection, and sound effects – including an incredibly jarring MRI scan. When discussing her lowest point, I shift uncomfortably in my seat. The absolute honesty about her condition is shocking, but incredible. The shifts of character are also well-crafted, from her hilarious flatmate to her multiple doctors and health professionals.
Hesmondhalgh herself in an incredible performer and storyteller. She exhibits an incredible amount of energy on stage; she makes us laugh at cancer, cry about Louis Theroux, and understand the reality of surviving such an illness; it is all about connection and support. Hesmondhalgh tells us, at the end, that she used to worry about dying without ever having been in love, but realises she is in love – she is surrounded by it, submerged by it, from all corners.
The show finishes with a compilation of videos and pictures of her friends and herself during her time in hospital. It makes the show incredibly human and real, and results in many audience members, including myself, to cry. It is so human, in fact, that there is hardly a pause between the end of the show and the standing ovation that follows. One thing is clear; this is not the next ‘Fleabag.’ This is something entirely different, and new, and so needed.
‘Madame Ovary’ runs until the the 26th of August – buy tickets here.
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