Maria Williams – ADHD... The Musical?!
16/05/2023 - 20/05/2023
Maria Williams returns with another theatrical hot-mess of a show! Will it actually be a musical this time? Will it be funny? Or will it just be sad? Or will it, again, ‘define characterisation’?
Will 2023 be the year she finally breaks out to become a comer?? So many questions. She has a lot of questions too: Why only now is it glaringly obvious she has ADHD?
Come find out more! You’ve got nothing better to do!?
Billy T Award nominee 2023, NZ International Comedy Festival
Winner – Best Newcomer Auckland 2021, NZ International Comedy Festival
Winner – Best Newcomer Wellington 2019, NZ International Comedy Festival
Price: $20 – $25
Comedian – Maria Williams
Comedy , Theatre , Stand-up comedy , Solo ,
Grounded in a fervid, colourful and cartoonish vibe strongly reminiscent of after school TV and a vertiginous and cringey nostalgia
Review by Cordy Black 19th May 2023
The theatre gods have given Maria Williams a twisted blessing indeed. Accolades and reputation keep coming her way but she remains awkwardly stuck with the ‘newcomer’ disclaimer, despite her multiple forays into comedy theatre.
Williams grapples with the paradox of how to deal with ambitions that don’t match her circumstances, and she does it through the medium of song, clowning and chaos. I would dearly love to know if she has also compiled the projected videos that sporadically accompany her performance – they are an unexpected delight, and work brilliantly to add depth and oddity to Williams’ onstage solo act.
ADHD…The Musical!? is a show peppered with references to neurodiversity and with plenty of big musical numbers, or things that loosely parody big musical numbers. But it also bursts out of its own confines, refusing to adhere to the conventions of the musical genre, of a typical mental health confessional tale, of a consistent run time.
Williams has notes scribbled on walls, the stage floor, a comically oversized whiteboard and an analogue wall clock, all trying to keep her demented antics contained to one hour. There was never really any hope of success but that’s the charm of a show like this. It isn’t a careful banquet, it is consciously and deliberately served up as a giant haphazard buffet. In allowing itself to be chaotic, Maria’s quasi-musical ramble is a more honest depiction of life with ADHD than it has any right to be.
So, what is stuffed into this mix of props and notes and peculiar side stories? Williams addresses a few themes in between her brand of madcap high energy action. She presents herself as a children’s TV presenter persona, a star-crossed dream self which has taken control of her for the evening. And there is Little Mazzy, her childlike puppet self who represents a more innocent and caring side to Williams’ demeanour.
Usually in a human and puppet scenario, the puppet is the being without a filter. But since this is a show about ADHD, the puppet self comes across as more grounded and honest, while the human self is more random and insistent. It’s a nice reversal of expectations. Somehow there are also various late 90s-era celebrities involved in surreal, oversharing scenarios, which I won’t spoil for future audiences.
Everything is grounded in a fervid, colourful and cartoonish vibe strongly reminiscent of after school TV and a vertiginous and cringey nostalgia. It probably hits harder for audience members who grew up glued to What Now! and its ilk. Fortunately, there is such a balled-up mess of cultural touchpoints that audiences should find moments for a relatable laugh even if they didn’t grow up in Aotearoa at a very specific time.
There are several points where William’s wild theatricality and physical rushing around make me genuinely concerned that we are going to need to call an ambulance. This is no bad thing in the context of a show which is about a kind of hereditary brain chemistry that sabotages people’s lives, and which sometimes endangers their bodies and psyches – but that also gifts those of us who have ADHD (myself included) with a vibrant immediacy and an eternal sense of Beginner’s Mind.
Williams embodies the permanent beginner, vowing at the triumphantly unhinged finale of her own show to start over and embrace an identity as a successful comedian rather than a failed ingenue. The up and comer’s instinct is, for good or ill, what lights up Williams’ act and what impels it towards something greater than just a pile of messy ideas.
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