Review: The Very Perry Show at the Hen and Chickens

People are odd. Which is a good thing; if we were all completely normal, life would be very dull. You only have to tune into a neighbour’s conversation on the train, or look at the other customers in a cafe to appreciate how wonderfully weird human beings are.

Kate Perry knows this more than most. She likes to collect people – and then share them in all their delightful eccentricity. So it is that we come to meet the likes of Carmel, a pensioner with a Ken Barlow obsession; Jimmy, a pigeon fancier from Bolton; and Bridget, a little girl making friends – whether they like it or not – with her fellow passengers on a flight to the States. These are just three of the characters brought to life in the comedy monologues of The Very Perry Show, a fun-filled one-woman performance that stops off in London this week on its way to New York.

Directed by Jeremy Stockwell, the show takes a no frills approach; each character has one or two accessories to differentiate them visually from the rest, but they’re really just a bonus thanks to Kate Perry’s talent for embodying completely each distinct personality. The affection she feels for each of her creations is obvious – even Suzie, a bored twelve-year-old from Surrey who’s just been expelled (again), and to pass the time plies her mother with tranquillisers, then calmly films the ensuing carnage for a web series she likes to call Mummy on the Brink.

That slightly dark episode aside, all the characters are interesting and lovable in their own ways (though in Bridget’s case, there’s a big difference between ten minutes in a theatre and several hours on a plane). And of course there are a lot of laughs, even in the stories we might not expect to be that amusing – like Marie, who’s reminiscing about the day she heard her father had died; not a cheerful topic, yet Marie ultimately ends up getting one of the biggest laughs of the night.

The final character in the collection is Mary Peachy-Bender, an Amish wife and mother of “six childrens” (and she does not want any more). The extreme circumstances in which Mary lives offer plenty of opportunities for comedy, but there’s also a sadness to this character as she imagines a different life, and that makes her somehow the most believable of them all.

Kate Perry is a great performer – quite apart from her talent for creating characters we can both relate to and laugh at, as a host she’s warm and inviting, addressing the audience directly but not in a way that will make anyone uncomfortable. The show is an hour of good, clean fun that moves along at a gentle pace without ever losing our interest, and proves that there really are interesting characters everywhere if you take a look around.

Can’t see the map on iPhone? Try turning your phone to landscape and that should sort it. I don’t know why but I’m working on it… 😉

Interview: Kate Perry, The Very Perry Show

Kate Perry is an actress, radio presenter and writer originally from Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, known and loved by audiences worldwide for her comedy monologues and colourful characters. This November, Kate brings The Very Perry Show – which she describes as “a happy hour of comic monologues featuring a pair of glasses, a rubber hat and a can of WD40” – to London’s Hen and Chickens, following huge success in Edinburgh, San Francisco and beyond. After the London run, she’ll be heading to New York to perform the show in the prestigious United Theatre Solo Festival.

The story of Kate’s career begins back in the 1990s: “I started my writing and acting career presenting my characters in a little venue called The Marsh in the Mission district of San Francisco, which is still going strong today,” she explains. “I was also a member of The Fifth Province Theatre Company, that put on contemporary Irish plays and I got a lot of experience acting with them. While still living in San Francisco I adapted the novel No Mate For The Magpie for the stage, which premiered in the U.S. and toured Ireland to critical acclaim.

“When I returned to Ireland in the late nineties I continued to write and perform my own material but was also offered opportunities to write for radio, which opened up doors for me on RTE, the national broadcaster, and then BBC Radio 4. I completed an MPhil in creative writing in Trinity College, Dublin then made the move to London in 2014. Since then I have been developing The Very Perry Show, performing it in London, Ireland, Edinburgh and San Francisco.”

In a career spanning almost three decades, it’s not surprising that there have been a lot of highlights. “One of the biggest has been getting commissioned to write a Woman’s Hour series based on sketches I had written for The Dublin Fringe Festival,” recalls Kate. “Also, writing monologues and short stories for BBC Radio 4 for the fabulously talented Tamsin Grieg, Doreen Keogh and Conleth Hill. More recently I have been given the opportunity to perform my show in New York, on 42nd Street as part of The United Theater Solo Festival, the largest solo festival in the world.”

The show’s directed by Jeremy Stockwell, and features a collection of eccentric characters, including an unhinged documentary maker, a pious pigeon fancier and a six year old ‘entertaining’ a captive audience on a long distance flight. But which of Kate’s creations is her favourite? “Hard to say, I like them all but I do have a soft spot for Mary Peachy-Bender, a disgruntled Amish woman with too many children,” she confesses. “She’s quietly subversive and audiences are always intrigued about where her story is leading. So am I!”

Even now, Kate admits to still feeling pre-show nerves, but she’s looking forward to introducing her characters to new audiences in London and New York: “I’m terrified before I step on to the stage; it usually starts with a gulp, gulp, and barf. But once I’m up there and have a receptive audience who connects with the material, then it’s a real pleasure to make people laugh and bring a little sunshine to their day.

“I think the key to good comedy is a matter of taste. Because I do character work I think it’s important to give the audience something recognisable. Someone they can latch on to and care about. You need to make it real, even if the characters seem ridiculous or are left of field.”

So why should we come and check out The Very Perry Show this November? “There’s something or somebody in it for everyone,” says Kate. “The characters include everything from a 5 year old to a 75 year old and everything in between. Even a man! And it’s only £8.50 a ticket…”

Catch The Very Perry Show at the Hen and Chickens from 7th-11th November.