What makes us blush, cringe and silently scream? The main ingredients: stupidity, food imagery, and bad dates.

How To Cope With Embarrassment offers us a delicious platter of first-class cringe. The show poignantly opens with the classic statement from 2007’s Miss South Carolina when asked why she thinks a fifth of Americans cannot locate their country on a map, to which she responded: “I personally believe that U.S. Americans […] uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and uh […] like such as…” You think that things can’t get more embarrassing than this, but the Pale Ladies deliver.

We meet Lucy (Lucy Bond), alone in a top floor apartment in the enchanting town of Milton Keynes. As with any dopey but endearing protagonist, Lucy was the unlucky chosen one by the Wickedest Witch to be cursed with an eternally red face (or at least until age 43). It’s understandable to be apprehensive about the hackneyed mock-fairytale form, but in this show it’s reworked cleverly; with the use of painfully relatable voicemails and tongue-in-cheek self-awareness. Clemency-Tate Thorburn and Benedict Hudson instantly grab the audience with their impeccable comic timing, and when the timing was off – endearing self-deprecation. When joined by Lucy Bond, we’re kept hooked with the constant increase in cringe until it reaches peak Peep Show levels. With a hand-picked audience member, we witness what has to be the worst Tinder date possible at the Ship and Hooker pub.

Using long-form gags, karaoke, crudity and nudity – the audience are amused and entertained for the whole hour. What more can you ask for? What makes this show such a gem is making a simple concept super funny: embarrassment. Embarrassment is the most popular millennial drug, with our love of vines, memes and Clickhole. Viral videos such as ‘Scottish Mum Tells Girls Off For Not Flushing Toilet’ allow us to laugh at another’s misfortune, but ultimately, cringe is a form of empathy. Melissa Dahl describes the experience or cringe as a kind of hyper-sensitive empathy to the situations of others. In her book Cringeworthy, Dahl explains why we’re so drawn to cringe. A quick Google search of ‘cringe compilation’ will find hundreds of videos of people exhibiting cringeworthy behaviour. Seeing others cringe makes us feel their pain – so why do we like it so much? One explanation from Dahl is that feeling such intense empathy makes us feel closer to people, and not necessarily the people in the videos but to humanity as a whole.

Two Pale Ladies are a promising company, hosting educational workshops and a monthly new writing scratch night “Deadline: Show Us Your Sh*t”. This company has a great deal to offer, and are not to be missed at the Camden Fringe this year.


Image: Camden People’s Theatre

4/5

Tara Carlin has just graduated from UCL with a degree in English. She has written for the Financial Times, Financial Adviser, and Savage Online. She is an actor and director and has recently set up a theatre company named Shakespeare’s Sister.

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