The Women of the World (WOW) Festival graced the stages and galleries of the Exeter Phoenix last weekend to celebrate female artists, in the year that marks the centenary of female suffrage. It was a weekend of workshops, DJs, performances and plays, showcasing a wide range of female talent. And yet the audience of comedian Felicity Ward’s stand-up gig was far from female-only. Marketed as a festival “for women and for anyone who knows a woman”, people of all age ranges and genders were present at the gig, and the audible laughter that circulated throughout her performance indicated the wide-reaching scope of Ward’s humour. Felicity Ward is an Australian comedian, who stumbled into stand-up while pursuing a career in acting and has featured on Live at the Apollo and been nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Show in 2018. Ward is currently touring the UK with her newest material, with her Exeter performance coming a couple of weeks into the tour.
Felicity entered the stage following an ominous voiceover from behind the scenes, a trademark of her shows which set the light-hearted, overly theatrical, take-the-piss tone of the show as a whole. She remarked early on that Exeter’s crowd is better than most others for its enthusiasm to interact with her. Felicity’s style is predominantly based on self-mockery, a staple of stand-up comedy. Leaning repeatedly on her personal relationships with her mother and husband for comedic content, she poked fun at her own life through themes comprehensible to most: the tensions of holidays with the family and the recurrent arguments in relationships. Funniest by far, was her portrayal of herself within these contexts, as she stereotyped her own arguments, flaws, and neediness, and the tensions they cause between herself and her husband. Another source of humour for Felicity is her Australian heritage and her perspective as a foreigner living in England. The dual perspective allowed for consistent play on national stereotypes from both countries, stereotyping herself and each nation equally, to tremendous comic effect.
With a performing arts background, much of Felicity Ward’s humour lies in physical theatre. She used her body in rudimental and silly ways, for instance, strutting around in a faux flirtatious pose, melodramatically playing out scenes of her life in theatrical stances, and ending the performance in a dramatic fall, bowing her head to the floor of the stage. Several stage minutes were taken up with what she refers to as ‘chicken singing’, during which she took audience suggestions of songs she should perform (yes, you’re reading this) as a chicken, which included the imaginable ridiculous arm movements, on top of a guttural farmyard vocal impersonation. Felicity Ward is a prime example of a person who is well aware of all the ways in which she is unconventional and odd. She showcased the endearing, goofy and hilarious habits and thoughts of a comedian at the top of her game.
Felicity Ward also finds a source of humour in her own mental health, which she poked fun out of continually, brandishing the well-known words ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ with glee to make fun both of her own behaviours, and the ways that others react to them. She mentioned that the nature of comedy is to make light out of life, and she succeeded in achieving this throughout the evening. The audience most certainly left their worries at the door of the Phoenix.
Mingling self-mockery with ridicule of the stereotypical tropes of Australians, Brits, millennials, parents, mental health sufferers, and men and women, Ward managed to avoid what might be called cheap jokes, creating hilarity for her extensive audience and fanbase, while maintaining a level of respect.
Felicity Ward is touring for the rest of the year – make sure to catch her!
Photo Credits: Philip Gatward