thu 23/01/2020

What Would Beyoncé Do?!, Soho Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

What Would Beyoncé Do?!, Soho Theatre

What Would Beyoncé Do?!, Soho Theatre

Luisa Omielan channels her inner bootylicious diva to sort through some relationship issues

Girl power: what would Luisa Omielan do?

The idea of the celeb as fictional life coach is not new. In Play It Again, Sam Humphrey Bogart dispenses tips on wooing to Woody Allen’s schlemiel. Eric Cantona offers gnomic pearls to a put-upon Man U fan in Looking for Eric. And then there’s the altogether more category-resistant Being John Malkovich. But they’re all up on the big screen. Luisa Omielan consults her chosen heroine for therapeutic guidance right there in front of you onstage, and a hilarious, life-affirming, mood-enhancing job she makes of it.

What Would Beyoncé Do?! sits somewhere between a bootleg jukebox musical and a self-help guide for all the single ladeez. Clad in bootylicious leggings, low-cut gold-spangled top and hightops, Omielan channels her inner Ms Knowles to work through some issues. The issues are naturally to do with men. It’s not just the night prowlers that shag and don’t answer texts (though she takes them down mercilessly). There’s also a younger brother whose mess she has to clean up (don’t ask), and a Polish father who has long since absconded.

Omielan is a natural clown with a voice for all occasions

You don’t need to worship at the altar of Queen B to have a ball - although the audience at the start of her fourth Soho Theatre run mostly consists of strong, independent women familiar not only with the words of the songs but also, judging from their whoops of empathy, with the aches and pains of romance. This being a comedy show, Omielan is happy to play the unabashed slapper, walking us through close encounters with other people’s genitalia, while all but turning her own into a supporting character. But underneath the high-octane tour of female insecurities (her solution to morning-after body dysmorphia is a masterstroke), there is an oddly serious homily about self-esteem and mental health busting to be heard.

Sometimes it even gets too serious for comfort. Towards the business end of the 75-minute show, Omielan gets all straight-faced about a suicide attempt (not her own) and heartbreak, and both times the jag back into comedy feels unsettling. But most of the show is a blast. Omielan is a natural clown with a voice for all occasions, including Mrs T and a cow in multiple accents (she even takes requests: ask for Jamaican). And naturally she sings and dances with the unselfconscious pizzazz of a Queen wannaB.

The truth is that a controlling billionairess who refuses permission for her rump to be snapped unflatteringly wouldn’t get into any of these sorry romantic scrapes. This uncensored study of sugar and spice and all things nasty is the show Viva Forever! should have been, a raucous red-blooded blast of girl power with a beating heart on its sleeve. Catch it now, or wherever it pops up next.

Jasper Rees on Twitter

Omielan is happy to play the unabashed slapper, walking us through close encounters with other people’s genitalia

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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