This show is an honest account of Janine’s life. It features her transition from New York to Croydon. It’s a long journey that’s not all sunshine and roses. Janine uses her acting skills and sharp humour to bring her friends and family to life.
This review was originally published on Fringe Review.
Janine Harouni was originally from New York. Following her dreams she left the family home, eventually living in Croydon. This show is about some of the key events that moved her story along. It is an honest, heartfelt account.
We start at drama school. Clearly a clever student, she uses her skills brilliantly to tell and enhance the unfolding story. We are treated to range of accents and a richly developed cast of characters. Whether the voice is male/female/young/old/gay or straight it’s convincingly delivered. Her New Jersey twang would have been good enough to earn a lead role in The Sopranos.
As you would expect from an acting school graduate the stage craft is exceptional. Janine holds the audience’s attention, she delivers with confidence. Her timing, pausing and pacing are well executed. Tone and timbre and inflection enhance the delivery. She moves around easily and whilst it’s a small venue she makes you feel as if she is talking to you.
As for the material, it’s rich, deep and personal. You believe this is an honest account, well told. There are a wide variety of joke constructions; short gags with unexpected punchlines, longer stories with punchlines interwoven like punctuation in the telling. There are gags with false endings, where it appears the pay-off has been delivered only for it to be followed by a second, stronger line. The follow-up is usually darker in tone, and all the funnier for it.
There is a strong thread of the sharp, sassy New York/American comedy so liked by British audiences. It’s clever language, sharp turns, fast pacing and gags delivered with a dark sardonic undercurrent. The influence of that comic history is clearly seen in this piece.
As the story and characters unfold there are also some wonderfully crafted moments of tastelessness, that serve to remind you that underneath Janine’s glossy, polished surface there is something a little scarier. There has been misfortune in her life and we hear about the dark days but there’s also hope. The people that surround Janine do so with love and humour and she tells us how they are also changed over time. Without being patronised there is a strong reminder that better times can come.
The end section of the performance, makes repeated links back to earlier gags and stories. Adding a richer layer, providing alternative endings to jokes we thought we had heard before. This level of detail indicates the cleverness of the material, and how much care has been taken in crafting the narrative. There is always a danger of overusing this device, not every prior element needs referencing.
For a final preview there were some very minor points, at one time there was an over long pause as she teed up the next section and the odd gag that just missed. Very, very minor points that would in all likelihood, given the strength of the show, pass unnoticed and are forgivable in a preview.
Watching the audience, they clearly loved it. The laughed in all the right places and applause at the end was long and sustained. They left chatting excitedly, always a good sign that the show was well received.
Bringing your debut show to Edinburgh is big step up, one she accomplishes with aplomb. This performance is clever, honest, fast and brilliantly delivered by a skilled practitioner. Janine is a comedian on the cusp of much, much bigger things. Seeing her show now is going to be a lot cheaper than trying to get into see her in the coming years. This is an excellent show.
Published on Fringe Review August 2, 2019 by Joe Angella