Freshwoman is a new play written by Tom Skelton and Dylan Townley which, set in the 1920s, tells the story of Mathilde du Belle’s first term at Oxford University, having been somewhat willingly forced to attend in order that she find a rich husband who will be able to alleviate her family’s financial problems in the wake of the Wall Street Crash. After being disappointed by last week’s Messiah Man, this production showed the Oxford drama scene what doing comedy is all about.
For a start it is funny, often hysterically so, which is great. What it lacks in depth and character development it makes up for in genuinely original material. The story can get a little lost in amongst all the frivolity, and perhaps we could have lost the compulsion many within the cast feel to shout their lines all of the time in order to fuel the farce. But we’ll forgive them because otherwise it’s highly entertaining. It is short, snappy and to the point, and it doesn’t labour its critique of Oxford life, displaying just the right amount without being preachy.
For a show that’s absolutely barking mad, it has been directed well, and there aren’t any clumsy scene changes. More than anything it proves that mad-cap humour can be well rehearsed and still be successful. The comical voice over is a nice touch, as is the audience participation, which doesn’t always work, but has the potential do so as the cast grow in confidence over the run. Undoubtedly the highlight of the show however is the ending, improvised from audience suggestion (this perhaps should come as no surprise considering that the cast contains a fair few Imps). Comedy anywhere can be hilarious on the night, but forgettable come the morning. But not Freshwoman; I will remember the final section for quite some time.
Freshwoman is thus a thoroughly accomplished performance and very much deserves the hoards of people who turned out to watch. Quite frankly I hope that it sells out for its entire run because it certainly cheered me up a treat.