A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to see Anna Mann headline a gig in Walthamstow (where I wasn’t stabbed on my way home, which is always a pleasant surprise) and fell in love her comedy immediately. The brain child of Colin Hoult she’s an actress who’s not had the career she might have hoped for but still gushes about all of her past roles, and in the review of the aforementioned gig I commented “Mann blew me away, it’s stand up at it’s very, very best and she’s someone I not only plan to see again soon, but many times over”. And for once I’m not a dirty liar as one of the first things I did was watch her show on NextUp before buying tickets for a future gig.
As mentioned in that review there have been a good few comedians who have taken on the persona of a failed and / or pretentious actor but Mann’s the best I’ve seen. She’s part luvvie part realist as she knows she’s not the best but doesn’t seem to care in the slightest, and even if the plays she’s been in haven’t been great she still adores them. She has a couple of catchphrases (“Oh fuck off, I love it” being the best) but she doesn’t overuse them, and 99% of the time it’s beautifully unpredictable and charming comedy from a character who the audience clearly falls in love with from the get go.
In the show she takes to the stage with two assistants, Bruce Wayne and Hermann, who are on hand to be insulted and act out various skits. The first fifteen minutes are mostly stand up as she explains who she is and what the show is about, occasionally bursting in to song as she reminisces about some of the musicals she’s appeared in like Aliens The Musical and Chairman Mao The Musical, and all are glorious moments. But the meat of the set is how she suffered from depression herself, commenting “Have you ever been depressed? I have, it was fucking shit” and briefly discussing some of the myths about it, including “I heard depression started in monkeys”, and all of them are beautifully funny.
Then she announces she’s going to explore depression using a variety of characters she supposedly met in group therapy, and this allows Hoult to take on a few other roles, like Mr Robinson, a PE teacher who loves his job but is confused by a student who’s in love with him, Mrs Marjorie Crooks, an old woman who’s waiting for death and spends her time getting in to arguments in supermarkets, and Wolfgang Hoffman, a Werner Herzog-esque director who’s full of pretentious but very funny lines. A bit of audience participation with a man called Barry was the most memorable moment, and the brutal comments that “You have come from nothing and this is of course where you’re destined to go” and how he “Drains the world of it’s overtaxed resources” had me howling, but all of it was incredibly strong.
The show is filled with hilarious moments and there are an enormous amount of lines that made me laugh, and the final section where Anna and her two assistants act out short vignettes based on audience suggestions of how you should respond to depression is the best part of an amazing hour of comedy. It comes to a close with a fantastically funny answer as to how to solve depression which many people recommend even though it’s a shit solution, and this is another show which is worth joining NextUp for alone. After it I’m even more eager to see Mann live again than I was before, which I really didn’t think could be possible, and I’d be astonished if anyone who saw this show didn’t feel the same way.