Ursula Martinez appears in a crisp white suit and a flash of jewellery. She’s dressed elegantly, so when she whips out a trowel and mixed cement, any preconceived ideas a chauvinist might have on gender are called into question. From this point on all of our assumptions about Martinez are stripped back and given a good comic going over.
On stage there’s a smaller stage with red curtains, which looks as if she might be about to create a meta puppet show. But instead Martinez stands in the small stage and uses her cement to slowly lay one breeze block at a time, creating a wall between herself and the audience. What could have been a blunt metaphor becomes the physical focus of a show which reveals the intimate and funny stories which make up Martinez - the more she is obscured by the wall, the more she reveals.
Martinez admits to her self-obsession, within a selfie obsessed culture, but it is her self-awareness which permits Martinez to push the audience beyond the politically correct. Anecdotes of racism in a regular British school playground in the 70s make the audience feel awkward and embarrassed. We stop laughing at one point but we don’t walk out. Martinez is self-aware and in control. The material is political and difficult and she’s not afraid of the awkward silence. As an audience we collectively deemed the racist comment unfunny and Martinez knowingly hits a troubling nerve. ‘White Feminism’ is a wicked witch of the western world, and her non-white and LGBTQ sisters need to be heard. This may or may not be not be Martinez’s agenda but I felt the comedy opened this issue up for discussion. Martinez reveals how social and political borders created by (sometimes the most well-meaning) institutions, governments and patriarchies effect the most personal parts of an individual. The personal is political and Martinez bares her own stories as examples.
During the performance Martinez laughs at herself being jealous of Catherine Tate and Graham Norton, having previously performed with them. The humour is similar to Tate and Norton in a self-deprecating and provocative way, and I leave kind of sad that Martinez hasn’t been given her own show on TV (yet). Female comedians have been loudly clacking out the laughs on stage for centuries, yet we’re still asking for more women in mainstream comedy. British television has some incredibly funny and accomplished female comedians, but the male to female ratio still doesn’t seem good enough when there’s talent like Martinez ready and waiting.
It is only at the very end that Martinez gets her kit off (which she is known to do) and when she does it comes across as celebratory and funny, cheeky but not gratuitous. I’d go as far to say as her nudity has a professionalism that few performers possess. The physical act of getting naked in this instance doesn’t seem as vulnerable as it might, and as the camera follows her striding out into town naked at night, you don’t fear for her, but you applaud.