When just being a woman is a political act… Welcome to Free Admission, the new show from Ursula Martinez, a show which is smart, biting and incredibly funny. Weaving together the personal and political, Ursula builds up an overwhelming wall of the crap and confusion we all experience just having to exist in a society today that is full of challenges, contradictions and prejudices.
Ursula’s style is sublime. She saunters on stage at the start of this one-woman show and with a little bit of self-deprecation and chit chat with the audience, we’re already in the palm of her hand. What follows is a monologue of quick-fire snippets, reminisces and a cleverly constructed supposed stream of subconscious and conscious wanderings as Ursula leads us through the world through her eyes.
That a lot of what Ursula observes and experiences brings the treatment of women in society into sharp focus is no surprise, but her show also looks at racism, homophobia and simply just trying to get through the day with your self-esteem intact.
The show might not be as tight as her gem from last year, My Stories, Your Emails. That show benefitted from its really specific subject matter – the emails Ursula received in response to her burlesque striptease performance – and she was able to lead the audience into drawing conclusions about so much about human behaviour just from these responses.
Free Admission doesn’t have such a structure and as a result, the show can feel like its meandering. Ursula’s scope is huge – whether it’s her mother’s recollections from the Spanish Civil War to Ursula’s sex ed classes in school, or snippets about censorship on female activity from other parts of the world to getting groped on the Tube. Yet this conversational style is engaging and it works almost entirely because of Ursula’s wonderful ease as a performer.
Performance art is unbelievably tough but Ursula’s stagecraft is superb. Her pacing, her timing, the blend of humour with real poignancy, even the use of her own body… It’s impressive stuff. And the show ends with one of the finest coup-de-theatre you will ever witness. My admiration for Ursula Martinez remains undimmed.
Southbank Centre, London to August 2, 2015