REVIEW: Sophie Walsh-Harrington is THE DAMSEL IN SHINING ARMOUR

An act of chivalry, bravery, comedy – and Celine Dion

By Kim Edwards

In all the best off-beat, edgy, witty and unlikely ways, The Damsel in Shining Armour is wonderful award-winning Fringe-esque comedy. Gagged and bound for her opening number, Sophie Walsh-Harrington promptly rescues herself from her bonds and her audience from their prosaic lives and sweeps us all into a modern musical melodrama with just the right amount of self-satire.

The great charm of the show is Walsh-Harrington herself, who enchants us with knightly tales of real-world romance where her laconic and satirical comic delivery is contrasted delightfully with outrageous physical humour, and punctuated with the reworked epic ballads of Celine Dion. Blessed with a rich and effortless voice, particularly in her lush lower register, our damsel fearlessly saves Celine from cabaret contempt with some clever musical arrangements and neat segues from story to lyrics.

The unique performance space of La Mama offered director Tom Dickins wonderful dramatic possibilities for unexpected direction and blocking, and beautiful Jen Kingwell is both an impressive musical ally and a lovely stage presence in the show.

Some of the show’s devices are more successful than others, and the narrative that has been so engaging and funny has a little trouble getting back up on the white steed after a particularly poignant moment, but the arch and over-arching charm of the performance is beguiling.

Ultimately, the show’s heroic skill at predicting and preventing cliches, drawing cleverly unconventional connections between anecdotes and songs, and Walsh-Harrington’s unwavering commitment to her material and character dub this damsel’s quest a triumphant knight’s entertainment.

The Damsel in Shining Armour won Best Cabaret for Adelaide Fringe 2011 and is now in Melbourne for the Comedy Festival.

Written and performed by Sophie Walsh-Harrington
Directed by Tom Dickins
Musical Director: Jennifer Kingwell
Tech and Lighting: Bec Etchell

La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday St, Carlton
Wed April 6 – Sun April 17
Wed & Fri 6.30pm; Thurs & Sat 8.30pm, Suns 4.30pm
Duration: 60 mins approx.
Tickets: $25 / $15
Bookings: 9347 6142 / comedyfestival.com.au
For more information: www.lamama.com.au or http://sophiewalshharrington.com/

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