Amused Moose finalist 2017 and Fringe First nominated comic Helen Duff is set to return to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 with a fresh hour dedicated to pondering the human condition – and her genitals.
Earlier this week, in the basement of Kentish Town’s Rose and Crown pub, Duff grabbed the audience from the off as she opened a preview show of ‘When The Going Gets Duff’. Gaulier-trained as a clown, Helen buoyantly bounced onto the stage, encouraging us to slap our own knees, elbows and pat our bellies, and we obediently followed her playful lead.
We instantly felt open and somewhat vulnerable as to what’s about to happen. Like putty in her hands, Helen’s stage presence is undeniably charming. She darts between tangents, seemingly surprised by what her tumultuous mind is about to pour out of her mouth next. I’d liken her to an eager schoolgirl trying to race through all she needs to say before the bell sounds the end of break. Dressed in a blue jumpsuit, curly red hair tied up, her clown suit appears to be a cross between an Elvis impersonator and a children’s entertainer. The gleam in her eyes and smirk on her face never falter. Which is amazing when one considers that she’s never had an orgasm.
Yes, Duff’s sell-out Edinburgh show 2016, ‘Come With Me’ made no secret of that fact as she tackled the psychology behind the elusive female orgasm. Here Helen again delves into a refreshingly honest routine about her frustrating voyage of sexual discovery.
Helen skilfully combines stand-up and storytelling to explore how to get in touch with oneself – in public and behind closed doors (or perhaps just leaving the curtains open). In an action reminiscent of self-flagellation, she’s taken to berating herself with a hard spank on the buttock when she needs some sense slapped into her – which she demonstrates several times on stage. Helen reveals she’s recently been attending one-to-one tantric sex lessons to help her connect with her body. Learning to love, touch and relax rather than remain an ‘uptight c***!’ she shouts unapologetically.
Duff sprinkles her set with a healthy dose of profanities, but don’t be put off. The C-bomb is dropped with a cheeky chuckle rendering it entirely inoffensive. In fact, it’s a rare occasion in comedy you hear the word genuinely used as a descriptive word for its intended noun.
It’s near impossible not to warm to Duff. Sharp-witted, her thoughts are captivating, and you’ve a sense that she could hit the audience with another hour of material at least. Amongst many ideas discussed, Helen explores touch, and the concept of it. She shares the mind-blowing fact that touch is actually impossible to achieve. Our bodies will never actually rub against another because of the space our atoms occupy. (Look to Science to fully explain it, not this humble reviewer.) However, Helen’s discovered that it’s been proven we do actually alter the synapses built in someone else’s brain by the direct result of our actions. Thus, getting inside someone’s head actually is more achievable than sexual or physical contact. If that’s the case then Helen’s got a mind-gasm to deliver – and I implore you to go and experience one for yourself.
Admittedly, the energy waned towards the end of the gig (concentration levels always dip after an earth-shattering mind-gasm, don’t you find?) as we tried to keep up with Helen’s mind, and body, as she physically occupies every inch of the space at one point or another. She’s exhausting to watch at times and, being a preview, the show’s structure was a little rough around the edges. Yet, as the show came to a close with a gleeful group rendition of Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, it felt like Helen had only just got started.
Venue: Assembly Roxy, Upstairs, 2 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh EH8 9SU Time: 19:35 Running Time: 55 mins Dates: 02 – 27 August. Previews 2 & 3 August. No show Sun 14 August.