Review By Dan Hutchings
Ashley Apap is here to help you discover your inner child - and maybe have time for some comedy along the way.
Outer Child, being performed at The Improv Conspiracy, is initially presented as a self-help seminar on how to access your inner child, before things go slightly off the rails. Ashley has some stomach issues, and soon enough her Inner Child has been literally pooped out and emerges onto the stage, while Ashley herself is confined to her emotional support water bottle. (Apap loves a good poop joke, so if that’s not your thing, maybe give this one a miss. Or go anyway, this show is good). The loose structure of the seminar stays in the Six Steps to Access Your Inner Child, but Ashley’s looser, more confident, and immature self has well and truly taken the reins, launching into a somewhat chaotic and very funny cabaret.
Having seen Apap perform before, I was interested to see Outer Child take a much more conceptual root, as well as being quite character based. Although Apap is essentially playing two versions of herself, the differences in character are obvious and well thought-out, including costuming - Ashley’s child self reveals she prefers shorts as she rips off the pantsuit she’s been wearing up until then. Playing these dual characters is a clever way for Apap to explore notions of identity and insecurity, and what it means to live a life unburdened by these things. A third character introduced later on in the show was slightly confusing for me, but structurally did provide Ashley and her child-self a common enemy to fight against, giving the audience moment of closure at the end of the show.
Apap’s comic ability is on full display in Outer Child. All of the songs are incredibly well written, traversing genres and making for an entertaining cabaret. A highlight for me was an somewhat operatic song composed exploring abandonment issues, combined with visuals of Apap’s floating heads that made it all the funnier. Also present from the beginning is a unique approach to audience interaction - as people walk in, Apap hands out fliers for her seminar to those that look like ‘they need help’ (I wasn’t handed one, as I looked well-adjusted. Do with that what you will). At another point she asks who has had a bowel movement today (I told you, it’s a theme) and later asks for a volunteer that she can be mean to while playing an 11-year-old girl. It’s a little odd, but it works, and audiences are always on board with Apap’s performances.
Unfortunately, the preview show I attended was mired with technical issues, and some misplaced technical cues led to a bumpy show. But Apap’s natural talent and the intelligence of the well-structured show was obvious, as well as her impressive ability to rally. When I have reviewed Apap before, and noted then how gifted a comedian she is - so when she was forced to take a break from the structured cabaret and improvise with some stand-up, I was secretly delighted.
Outer Child is the latest success from an incredibly likeable, earnest performer, and I recommend you see it - and her - soon.