When it came time to create a trailer for her one-woman show — which is titled, of all things, “One Woman Show” and is playing at the Greenwich House Theater — Liz Kingsman researched what other productions had done. One video especially made her laugh.
“It was for one of the Shakespeare histories and it was just close-ups of a man fondling his cuffs and touching his tie,” Kingsman said on a recent afternoon. “You’re like, ‘Is that Kit Harington?’ And then a bit of hair. It’s teasing Kit Harington, and in the end it is Kit Harington.”
She decided to deploy the same gimmick for her own promotional trailer, complete with none other that Harington himself (though that “Game of Thrones” star, to be clear, is not in Kingsman’s show). “I’m not famous, so a trailer where it teases me…,” Kingsman said. “No one’s ever heard of me, so who cares?”
A similar slightly goofy, slightly surreal style is at work in the Olivier Award-nominated “One Woman Show,” in which Kingsman sends up both a specific subgenre and its stars — boldly confessional, sexually frank, endearingly messy young women — for a “sharply observed satire,” as Jason Zinoman put it in his review for The New York Times.
“Liz’s comedy has a sense of authorship that not lots of other comedians are lucky enough to have,” the comedian Alex Edelman said on the phone. (His Broadway solo, “Just for Us,” and “One Woman Show” were directed by Adam Brace, who died in May.) “She’s both totally committed to the character and totally committed to the laceration of the character.”
And she has found an audience: Since a one-off outing of the concept in 2019, “One Woman Show” has traveled to the West End and at the Sydney Opera House. Now Kingsman is ready to move on, and says the New York run, which ends on Aug. 11, will be the production’s last.
After growing up in Sydney, Australia, she attended Durham University in England. There she formed the sketch-comedy trio Massive Dad with Tessa Coates and Stevie Martin, and they performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014 and 2015. Kingsman went solo, firming up a drolly understated sensibility. Most notably, she has spent three seasons as the eye-rolling, unflappable British assistant-turned-lobbyist Rose Pilkington in the French series “Parlement,” a witty cross between “Veep” and “The Thick of It.” (It’s available on Topic in the United States.) “No one I know has ever seen the show so it feels like I’ve made the job up,” she said, laughing.
Kingsman, who declined to give her exact age but said “I remain 12 years old,” arrived for the interview with her cockapoo, Emmett, and marveled at the access he enjoyed in New York. “You can go shopping with your dog here,” she said. “Like, you can take them into clothes shops, and you can’t do that in London. That’s really revolutionizing things.”
The pair sat down for some hummus and a doggy biscuit at a West Village restaurant near Kingsman’s rented home away from home. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Why did you move to Britain?
My mom is British, one of the “Ten Pound Poms”: They needed an immigration boost in Australia so they handed out 10-pounds tickets to British people. When it came to [university], I just went to England — I wanted to go and live in an old building and read books in a little nook somewhere. I quickly learned that it is cold and damp [laughs]. But there is a brilliant industry in London and once I started working, it was very hard to leave.
How does humor travel?
I’ve definitely found New York to be the hardest translation of the show because I think an American audience believes things that are meant to be ironic at the top. When my character says “Women’s voices aren’t getting heard in theater,” a U.K. audience knows that’s me doing a joke about a woman who would say that very sincerely onstage. But an American audience has been clapping at that line. I don’t know what to do with that because I can’t be, “No, that’s ironic!” I don’t want to generalize too much, but my experience is that there has been a tendency to sort of buy into it a little bit more here.
What makes you laugh?
I find very serious theater amusing. I saw “Sweeney Todd.” I really enjoyed it, but there’s a sort of big moment where a character dies and the next line was “Oh, no.” The actor had to deliver it with gravitas and I was like, “How are you going to do that? Somebody’s died: ‘Oh no.’ ” I just started laughing at a very serious-themed play. I can’t help it, I just find it funny.
OK, but what kind of comedy do you find funny?
Commitment to something incredibly stupid makes me laugh — really stupid stuff taken very seriously. There’s a clip from “Parks and Recreation” when [Leslie Knope] is on her campaign run and she has to give a speech in the middle of an ice rink. I’ve watched the clip so many times. It’s quite physical and I love slapstick. The scene generally is very funny, but I also like the idea of how much fun those actors would have had that day. It makes me want to be in a show like that more than anything.
I love that you’re wearing dungarees in “One Woman Show,” although apparently it’s a nod to one Phoebe Waller-Bridge wore in “Fleabag”?
It’s not, actually. All the one-woman shows I saw, they wear overalls or dungarees because there’s a little bit of “girl next door” about it. If you ever go to any of those festivals like Edinburgh or Brighton, it’s just a sea of women wearing overalls, dungarees or boiler suits. I couldn’t do the show in a boiler suit so I was like, “It’s got to be dungarees.” It was never a specific reference but people started saying that my costume was a reference to one episode of one TV show. And I was like, “ecch.” Also, if I wanted to parody a costume, I’d do a better parody.
American female comedians don’t appear to be into dungarees to the same extent.
It’s just an unflattering outfit, basically.
I think they’re cool! Like something the tomboy George would wear in an Enid Blyton book.
But don’t you think there’s a slight kink about that? It’s very hard to describe. Maybe it’s very specific to the U.K. In the script it’s written that she’s wearing messy braids that have been made to look deliberately a little bit messy. She basically has to look casual, like she’s thrown it on but thought has gone into it. It’s all character: It’s what this woman would wear — I would not wear that outfit. Now I will never wear dungarees ever again. And I’m never doing a French braid ever again after August 11!
Content Source: www.nytimes.com