Review: Odd Encounter @ Exeter Phoenix

Odd Encounter was… well, just that, a very odd encounter. Upon entering the ‘Workshop’ room, I was welcomed by an exceptionally friendly and glittery drag queen, Mysti Valentine, who was to be the one of the stars of the show. The description of this performance was vague at best, so I went in with an open mind and was not disappointed. As Britons do best, the two actresses, Alison Andrews and Jenny Wilson (stage name varied upon eccentric costume) addressed serious and emotional issues with a lot of humour. These problems included understanding consent, the patriarchy and oppressive gender norms. They discussed everything from the issues of fetishisation of minority groups on tinder, to cliché (or Clishay, the name of one of the skit characters) dating shows. They also joked about Nigella Lawson as a ‘domestic goddess’, setting women back fifty years as she enacts how ­women should be the ‘perfect housewife’ and the role of women as ‘babymakers’ and their ever-looming ‘body clock’, evoking an image of female rage that was as funny as it was a real portrait of gender-frustrations. oddThe absurdist comedy of cactus puns and sexually shaped vegetable game shows had the audience gripped from start to finish.

Talking about taboo topics that often aren’t spoken of due to their uncomfortable narrative, this show refused to shy away from the harsh reality of a world that is systematically structured to reject a woman’s truth in order to support the male perspective. And this is all done with a crude and jibbing humour that sarcastically satirises the world women have to inhabit every day.

This was a totally unique and immersive performance, asking the audience to share their advice for love which ranged from ‘don’t be afraid of lube’ to ‘don’t lie about loving someone.’ Despite their witty, though sometimes forced humour, these two passionate women ended their performance with an emotional scene which made many in the audience shed a tear. A slideshow showing tweeted pictures of all different types of loves, people who have suffered for who they love, and those who still feel judged by who they love, accompanied by the vocals of Jenny Wilson, made for an emotive ending. When asked what inspired the show Alison Andrews responded, “we really wanted to open up the conversation about consent and understanding your own bodies, we wanted to make people realise that they should feel comfortable in all relationships not just romantic ones.” In asking if she wanted to give one piece of advice to the readers of this article, she replied “continue to engage in these very important debates, consent still lacks awareness, we need to start actually hearing each other to make a more loving society.”

This was the second show in their trilogy, the third will be Odd Adventure, focusing on the iconic duo of Velma and Louise. Jenny Wilson and Alison Andrews broke down the barrier of the stigmatisation of sex, relationships and sexism through an array of comedic sketches making complex issues easier to discuss. Considering the prevalence of the #metoo movement, this show is exceptionally relevant. It is so important that these conversations continue because supporting other women is more important now than ever before, we must help each other to break through the glass ceiling and defend our right to equality.

Odd Encounter is a touring show by Irregular Arts – find out more about the company and their projects Here. 

– Niamh Elstone and Jenny Recaldin

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