Review: Luisa Omielan, Soho Theatre

luisa omielan

Once you see Luisa Omielan's fizzy, full-throttle, hot-blooded performance in What Would Beyoncé Do? you won't forget it. The pocket-sized sassy comedian never holds back, charging around the audience, thrusting her booty in people's faces and rolling around the stage sobbing about a messy relationship, what Russell Kane has dubbed the "kitchen floor reset". 

The problem with the show, however, was me. I went alone on a Friday when the theatre was full of fans in an end-of-the-week, hands-in-the-air party mood. This is not strictly a stand-up comedy show either, which maybe explains why it was overlooked by the Foster's Award panel when it played at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. While it is far too sophisticated to describe it as hen night entertainment it does have something of the "girls' night out gig" about it as Omielan opens up, examines her life – mainly her love life – and concludes that it doesn't match up to the have-it-all life of Mrs Jay Z. Though it is worth noting that men had their hands in their air by the end too.

But never mind the critics, there is a real word-of-mouth and social media buzz about this show. It started out as a free show and is now being promoted by Eddie Izzard's promoter and has recently added extra dates at Soho, appropriately around Valentine's Day. You can buy tickets here and read the original review in the Evening Standard here.  By the way, this review was written before Beyoncé's recent Presidential Inauguration fuss. So the answer to the question What Would Beyoncé Do? is not "mime".

In a business where heavyweight management and hype can matter more than the ability to tell a joke Luisa Omielan's rise is remarkable. Without representation or marketing she had a hit with a free pub show at 2012's Edinburgh Festival and now, thanks to word of mouth and a snappy title, is filling the Soho Theatre and has just extended her run.

Actually her rise is not so remarkable because Omielan is a veritable all-dancing, all-chatting, turbo-charged talent. In What Would Beyoncé Do? she applies the philosophy of the soul diva’s lyrics to her own chaotic singleton life at home with her mother. For 75 minutes she delivers frank anecdotes and struts through the audience shaking her booty to the likes of Independent Woman.

The premise works even if it is so thin that the fun-sized, curly-haired firecracker also has to add some meaningful Adele and Alanis Morrisette classics between stories about rejection, Margaret Thatcher and her sometimes eccentric, sometimes upsetting family. Her Polish mum speaks English like a BBC announcer, but constantly uses malapropisms, while other serious issues are unflinchingly addressed.

This is not typical stand-up, but the singalongacomedy format helps Omielan draw the audience into her world. Every female watching instantly recognised her resonant portrait of boyfriends with commitment issues, which included a pithy running gag about women packing everything into the “relationship boat” while men travel suspiciously light.

Behind the bursts of music there are not many knockout punchlines, but that barely matters when Omielan has the charisma to get everyone, including the men, smiling and waving their hands in the air to Single Ladies. Maybe not the funniest, but certainly the funkiest comedy show in town.

Hello! Thanks for reading all the way down. I wish I could give you a prize. But BTJ needs your support to continue - if you would like to help to keep the site going, please consider donating.

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.