Review by Dan Hutchings
I promise, this won’t hurt a bit - Ashley Apap is bringing Ouch! to the Trades Hall this Fringe.
Apap (rhymes with Crapap) has a laundry list of ‘ailments’ - which she details at the start of the show - that result in chronic pain. Invisible disability doesn’t exactly sound like fodder for a funny comedy show, but you’d be wrong about that - Apap has created an entertaining and very funny night of song, sketch and stand up. She combines these effortlessly, mixing in traditional stand up and audience interaction with quirky sketches throughout the show.
Apap is a natural performer and a gifted comic. At the time I saw the performance, she was recovering from an infection that resulted in the first few shows being cancelled, and thus informed the audience of a few concessions she would need to make to go on performing. It’s quite telling that, despite having only been on stage for a few minutes, this request was met with a resounding ‘yes’, from an audience that was already on board with her performance. This level of engagement didn’t slow down as the show went on, and any participation requests were met with enthusiasm. Apap’s stand up skills are exceptional, and made for a comfortable and engaged audience. It’s worth noting as well that these ‘concessions’ didn’t seem to hold her back - she even incorporates them into the show. Squirting honey straight into her mouth to soothe her throat became almost a running gag over the night, and a very good one at that.
The show also worked well technically. Apap makes good use of AV, to introduce segments or provide a visual aid or voice-over. I wondered if these were deliberately added as a clever way to help her manage a demanding show, but regardless they certainly added to the performance, and were incredibly well-timed. Bonus points for including closed captions - it certainly makes sense in a show about disability to make it as accessible as possible. A small tech mishap the night I attended was also covered well.
The show is well-written, with a variety of creative sketches. Apap isn’t afraid to get raw and vulnerable either. A particular sketch highlight for me was ‘Hydrotherapy’, the 90’s-style sitcom, complete with laugh track, of ‘Ashley’s’ adventures with the elderly folk in her hydrotherapy sessions. Her elderly pals encourage her to spend her birthday with her friends her own age, while Ashley is reluctant as they don’t understand her various ailments like the old folk do. This is all done in song, of course. It’s a good example of all the best parts of Ouch! - creative and funny sketches, clever song writing, and Apap’s lovely voice, as well as moments of pathos. Apap isn’t afraid to share the reality of her illnesses, but this is never at the expense of the humour that you expect in a sketch comedy show.
It seems that this Fringe will be the last time Apap is bringing Ouch! to the stage, and I’m excited to see what she does next. I expect she’ll be a regular on the comedy circuit, and I’ll be sure to be in the audience.