Do you wish to discover out the place your god-shaped gap is and why Jesus is definitely a lesbian? Possibly you simply need a tantalisingly good evening on the theatre. Introduced as a part of the NZ Worldwide Comedy Pageant, James Penwarden’s stand-up present Them Fatale will go away you dripping moist with laughter.
Just like the lethal Noir seductress eluded to by the present’s title, Penwarden enchants us with their charismatic presence as quickly as they enter the stage. They maintain the house with mesmeric surety, all the time a flirtatious sparkle of their eye, and proudly proclaim the multitudes they comprise. Like a hapless Noir protagonist, I’m hooked.
Them Fatale is a velvety firecracker of a present – horny, enjoyable, and intelligent. Penwarden by no means misses a single beat, taking us on a journey by means of Catholicism, identification and queer polyamorous intercourse. They tease us with a guitar, sprinkling songs all through and slowly ramping up every part till we’re good and prepared. Each joke is witty and exactly delivered. The place some comedy units may lull as they transition from one part to the subsequent, Penwarden’s writing is constantly participating and clean, making a cohesive complete that deftly holds their multifaceted nature.
Penwarden makes use of their non-binary identification as each a uniting theme and a jumping-off level to discover the ambiguities in human relationships. What does it imply to have homosexual intercourse whenever you’re non-binary? When a straight (cis) individual dates a non-binary individual, has their sexuality modified? Penwarden offers no simple solutions to such questions, as an alternative subtly prodding at our want to put issues into easy classes. Their very existence is an instance of why this isn’t solely futile but in addition denies the basic complexity of human nature and need. It’s the many shapes and varieties that need can take, and the (typically awkward) realities of enacting such need, that gives the majority of the hilarious and deeply relatable materials.
After all, their experiences may not be so relatable for everybody; the primary demographic for this present is undoubtedly queer people. However the friction between societal expectations and the messy and fluid realities of relationships is unquestionably one thing we are able to all perceive. It’s refreshing to see such good comedy exploring the character of the queer expertise and maybe bringing this perception to new audiences. As a cis, straight girl I can say I discovered the present thigh-slappingly humorous and really relatable. Certainly, when Penwarden sings about straight ladies who want they have been homosexual I really feel personally spoken to, and possibly just a little confused as a result of these suspenders they’re sporting are actually horny and… I digress.
Confusion was a significant theme in Them Fatale – from the confusion that inevitably ensues when one questions norms of gender and intercourse, to spiritual confusion, to the confusion of different folks when one tries to elucidate one’s identification, and (after all) the ability of Penwarden’s excellently-chosen outfit to sexually confuse the whole viewers. Their black velvet jacket, lacy corset and boxy trousers, together with the pink lipstick they sport, provides cabaret vibes, evoking an extended theatrical custom of gender blurring, à la Marlene Dietrich or Joel Gray. However in all this speak of confusion, I by no means as soon as felt misplaced. Relatively, I felt anchored by Penwarden’s confidence and the fantastically crafted journey this present takes.
The Basement Studio was a wonderful venue for the piece, offering an intimacy that highlighted Penwarden’s pure charisma. The extra critical, heartfelt moments have been well-earned, and the present managed to strike an ideal stability between difficult and empowering, and being satirical and foolish. James Penwarden is unquestionably a comedy star on the rise.
Them Fatale performs the Basement Theatre 16-Twentieth of Might 2023