Review: My Stories, Your Emails

by Jane

This review originally appeared on www.ArtsHub.com.au

Ever personable, Ursula Martinez – the headline act at Feast 2010 – candidly shares stories with the audience. Starting with essentially a series of unconnected one-liners, Martinez begins My Stories, Your Emails bringing us into her life, her family, and her sense of humour.

Ursula Martinez in My Stories, Your Emails. Photo: Tristram Kenton

As she reads her stories from a folder, some seem to end just before the punch line, and so, as we realise we’re not going to hear that final beat that we are expecting, the joke becomes all the more funnier.

It is delightful to see how, after many seasons, Martinez still amuses herself with her jokes. At times she can barely contain a smile when she recounts a story, or imitates her Spanish mother or the boy from her apartment building who just had his hovering exam. At other times she looks straight into the audience and laughs along with us. In the second half, as she reads others emails from a laptop, creating characters for the writers, the characterisation might, ever so slightly, disappear, as she reacts to the audience’s appreciation.

It is this combination of amusement in herself and a want to share and connect with the audience that makes this show so great. Martinez introduces herself directly to the audience, asking questions (who came because they wanted a perv? Who came because they wanted a perv but are a little too shy to admit it?) and introducing us to the format of the show.

The first half, My Stories, has Martinez sharing tidbits about her life, while the second half, Your Emails (“Well, not your emails,” Martinez says, peering into the crowd, “unless Big Eric is in the audience?”) is a series of fan emails she received, primarily from men who want to have a “sexy time” with her. She also warns of the content of the show: a terrible Swedish accent and a picture of a 19cm erect penis (“Although, on this screen, it’s probably more like a meter and a half,” she contemplates).

Martinez got her unexpected legion of emailing fans when a video of her performing at the Montréal Comedy Festival was, without Martinez’s permission, placed on the internet. Entitled Hanky Panky, Martinez makes a red handkerchief repeatedly disappear from her hands and reappear in her clothing; as Martinez removes her clothes, she still makes the piece of material disappear and reappear, until she is naked and the trick still works.

Martinez shows the video in My Stories, Your Emails, and it is completely incongruous to the emails she receives. Yes, she is naked, but the strip is done in a non-sexy and ironic manner: essentially making fun of the strip, which is a by-product of the magic itself.

But the men who send her the emails clearly did not get that from the video. To them, the naked woman is a beacon of sex, and they want to meet her. As Martinez takes on the character of each poor man who emailed her a message and a photograph the show is uproariously funny. And while a sense of loneliness surrounds many of the emails – they are looking for friendship as often as they are looking for more – Martinez carefully balances the line between making fun and being cruel.

Through balancing this line, we are introduced to a wondrous and bizarre cast of characters who have the audience laughing at every turn. Martinez, having just as much fun as the audience, drives a tight and excellent hour of entertainment, giving the audience both an insight to herself, and an insight into how the internet can, in the minds of some, completely alter the intent and outcomes of a little Hanky Panky.

Feast, Ursula Martinez and the Adelaide Festival Centre present My Stories, Your Emails, created and performed by Ursula Martinez, directed by Mark Whitelaw. Originally commissioned by Barbicanbite10 and Queer Up North International Festival, England.  At the Space Theatre 11/11/10.  Adelaide season closed.  Sydney season Nov 24-Dec 4, Sydney Opera House.

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