Julia Masli first emerged at the Fringe as the versatile pins in clown sketch show Legs. Since then, the London-based Estonian has established a burgeoning reputation as a solo performer. And she uses a mannequin's leg here to encourage audience members to open up to her, prodding it into faces and inquisitively enquiring: “Problem?”
This disarming tactic, and her unlikely, mostly non-judgemental persona as an agony aunt, encourages really quite candid answers. Despite the fact that she occasionally screams in faces, smashes up furniture or sweetly extorts money and offers next to nothing in the way of practical solutions or therapeutic help, the simplicity of the entreaty and perhaps the intimately sweaty, dimly lit confines of her basement room, encourage people to really open up, sharing malaises from the trivial to profound. All of these Masli takes onboard. Her help has an exploitative aspect, and various volunteers are really set to work on themselves and others', scattered about her stage as she finds more marks to probe.
On the night I caught it, comedian Glenn Moore was one of those swept up in the chaos. And it's perhaps indicative of this often uproariously entertaining, boundary over-stepping hour that his well-meaning attempts to help ended up becoming such an imposition upon him. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha seems to have effortlessly plugged into a new zeitgeist of therapy-influenced sharing of feelings. But it was interesting that ultimately, both he and another, otherwise equally game volunteer, refused to let Masli fully invade their personal limits, the irresistibly giddy force of bravura clowning such as this encountering modern, respectful consent.
Julia Masli: ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, Monkey Barrel Comedy, 1.30am – 2.30am, until 27 Aug