Laughter is an appropriate reaction: that’s probably about as close as a summary to Rachel Mars’s latest show as you’re likely to get.
The Way You Tell Them, performed as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival’s Live Art Club at the Norwich Arts Centre, is part stand-up, part comedic theory, part therapy.
Throughout the hour-long show Mars keeps the audience on edge, juxtaposing (mostly knowingly bad) jokes with serious situations and depressing clips on nuclear weapons and Aids. How can these be funny? she asks — and yet they can.
Black humour is frequently found in the most stressful and upsetting situations as a coping mechanism — laughter, blocking creation of certain chemicals within the body and increasing oxygen intake. It can be offensive and upsetting, but also entirely natural.
Mars is a confident and captivating performer and there is a clever and playful mind at work here, but it is a show the audience have to work at as hard as she does.
As well as being a way of defending ourselves, being funny is also seen as an attractive quality. For this show to really shine Mars needs to bring a little more seduction and a little less confrontation.