Charmian Hughes SOIXANTE MIRTH

BATS Theatre, Studio, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

01/03/2017 - 04/03/2017

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

09/03/2017 - 12/02/2017

NZ Fringe Festival 2017 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Dunedin Fringe 2016

Production Details

Comedian Charmian thought she’d be an adult by now – but her ten year old former self wants to know what she’s done with her life, whether she’s kept her promises and what on earth is she wearing. 

‘Lots of lovely lines and a few surprises… a charmingly scatty chatterbox’ Bruce Dessau Beyond The Joke (Edinburgh Festival 2016)

‘Charmian delights as a performer… a joyous and fun hour. ★★★★  Funny Women (Edinburgh Festival 2016)

‘A lovely show… Charmian is the poster girl for the natural sexagenarian and time spent with her is a joy… a genuinely enjoyable watch’ Kate Copstick, The Scotsman. (Edinburgh Festival 2016)

‘A mirth-filled 60 minutes’ Buxton Fringe Review 2106

Buxton Fringe Best Comedy Award Nominee July 2016 (individual category).

Charmian has performed her comedy to audiences throughout the UK, and has been a regular MC for the world famous Glastonbury Festival.  

NZ Fringe 2017

BATS Theatre, The Studio – 1 Kent Terrace, Mount Victoria, Wellington
March 1-4 2017
TICKETS: $16/$13/$10 

Dunedin Fringe 2017

Fortune Theatre
March 9-12 2017 
at 6pm 

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr

Insecurities tackled in a vortex of nostalgia

Review by Emer Lyons 10th Mar 2017

The show opens with The White Horses theme tune serenading us – “On white horses let me ride away” – and away we go on a journey through time with our charismatic host Charmian Hughes. The audience immediately feels at ease with Hughes wearing the garlands from her Auckland Airport welcome as she breaks into the audience to give a British welcome. “Do you work?” she asks the man in the front seat.

Charmian time-travels with the aid of the audience and encounters herself at ten, fourteen, twenty-three and ninety. We are pulled through crack dens, onto buses, on top of ponies, into the kitchen pantry and even encouraged to sacrifice to Satan (strictly for bus privileges!).

We learn how horses can be erotic and poetic, how language doesn’t have to be understood to be invented and why swans are so aggressive. The comedy takes us from the 1960s through to today, the time-travel performance device allows Hughes to reach out to all ages within the audience and find common ground or common insecurities. She tackles these insecurities, and darker topics like mental health and self-confidence issues, with a candid warm humour and self-depreciation that is characteristic of British humour.

Charmian manages to colour the bare stage with her presence. The hour flies by in a vortex of nostalgia and by the end, as she teasingly patronises the audience, we are all beaming up at her and agreeing as she professes that New Zealand audiences, “need me, they need my art”.


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Playful, poignant, painful, sweet, achingly familiar

Review by Aaron Alexander 03rd Mar 2017

At first you might think: what’s so ‘Fringe’ about a sixty-year-old, middle-class English woman telling her life story? But it’s swiftly apparent that Charmian Hughes doesn’t give a f—, and maybe that’s the spirit of Fringe in a nutshell.

Not giving a f—  in the best possible way, of course. Charmian has a story to tell, she wants to tell it her way, and for us to enjoy it. That’s it. She’s not trying to impress anyone or be the next big anything; she cares about sharing a moment, a memory, and a song.

Performers many years Charmian’s junior consciously deconstruct their technique, and too often it’s just another form of artifice – a crafted rawness. Her simplicity of staging, and direct connection with her audience feels less like a deconstruction than a natural erosion. She’s let everything fall away except what really matters to her – which in a way is her overarching message.

Her comfort is immensely reassuring to an audience. “Touch my hair,” she says to a girl in the front row in the first five minutes. “It’s real!” The girl does, and it’s simple moment: casual, and profoundly intimate. Any ice is broken, shattered into warm giggles, and suddenly we are friends in a room, enjoying Charmian’s company.

She presents as a bit of a mad aunty, like Pam Ayres on a mild dose of blotter acid. A master of the comedic sideswipe, conventional setups are hit by a punchlines from left field, delivered with a cheeky twinkle. Between the jolts of unexpected humour, Hughes is happy to let us in on the game, with a comfortably loose storytelling style that focuses on cultivating an honest, shared connection.

She makes mischief with our expectations, subverting an eccentric but fundamentally middle-class persona – like talking about being involved in the Satanic church, not as a believer, but just because they have the best schools (though you do have to [spoiler averted] to get your kids in).

Despite grinning my way between bursts of laughter for an hour, the undercurrent of Hughes’ show is surprisingly profound. She’s reflecting on the continuum of life, and the search for authenticity of self. Is Charmian’s ‘truest’ identity her innocent 10-year-old self, her unburdened 60-year-old self, or one of the selves between? She interviews these previous selves, teasing in both directions.

10 year old Charmian simply cannot believe she never bought a pony when she grew up, and we all remember the metaphorical ponies we wanted at that age. Each meeting across time ends with 60 year old Charmian giving her younger self some sage advice, to which the younger self responds to by enthusiastically giving up on one of her dreams. It’s both playful and poignant, painful and sweet, and achingly familiar.

A deeply personal journey, it feels like Hughes is opening a treasure box of precious memories. Sometimes literally, as when she pulls out an illustrated novel written by her ten year old self. It felt like the genuine article, and if so, sharing this fragile, fifty-year-old work of art from her childhood was very moving – and very funny, with the innocently inappropriate ‘mock Chinese’ dialogue of its exotic characters.  Like our narrator, the precious books of her life hilariously evolve and mature through the show as well.

The show ends on a joyous note, returning to Charmian of today, who has shed so much self-consciousness, and found her own ‘ponies’ in a kind of second childhood. Though she admits to still being troubled by being mistaken for a [spoiler averted] while travelling through India with a friend – and troubled still more by what her reactionary, dungaree-clad 23-year-self would think of that.

In the culmination of the show, the freedom and self-comfort that Charmian appears to have found along the way is expressed in a gloriously nonsensical, semi-improvised song in bad French, reputedly taught to her 14-year-old self during the show, and performed to a French exchange host family. It’s a completely silly finish that is intentionally frothy and insubstantial – but at its heart she repeats “Je t’ t’aime…” and we’re left without any doubt that she really does.

And yet…

The show – like Charmian’s life – feels like it deserves yet another chapter. I look forward to seeing her return at age 90 to interview her 60 year old self and tease her for her curtain dress. “Quartre-Vingt Dicks” perhaps…


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