The Half

Danielle Ward
Fabric Productions in association with Danielle Ward and Anna Crilly
Pleasance Courtyard
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There’s something tragic about an ex- or failing comedian. So much so that the topic has been covered extensively in docudramas charting the rise and fall of the comedy greats of the past.

Danielle Ward’s new play sits comfortably within the tragi-comedy genre with Anna Crilly and Margaret Cabourn-Smith starring as Anderson and West, two women who’ve made a career of being funny but who know full well that show business is no laughing matter.

It starts light, the two meeting in a dressing room for the first time in ten years, exchanging cruel and bitter banter whilst dressed for a Whatever Happened to Baby Jane sketch. But there’s an undercurrent of sadness, the glory days seemingly passed. One has found moderate success in America and now lives in LA, the other, currently ‘resting’ insists that audio is the future and that she’s about to start podcasting or “casting the pod.”

Despite the surface level pleasantries, the deep history between them is evident and a series of flashbacks follows, shining a spotlight on the crucial moments when everything changed for the duo. In these, the stark difference between their past lives and their current behaviour is revealed, Crilly more gentle, with bright eyes and quick wit, Smith expansive and cocky with a twinkle in her eye.

This is a piece with much humour and some great dry one-liners but it leans towards the more tragi- side of tragi-comedy, almost melancholic. As well as the tale of their meeting, it’s a reflection of women in the entertainment industry: the expectations, the struggles, the abuse and the sexism.

Despite some pacing issues, this is an absorbing hour largely thanks to Crilly and Smith’s spiky dynamic and a rather surprising twist.

Amy Yorston