‘If you don’t laugh you’ll cry’, or so the saying goes, but with everything that can happen in a life, it’s probably best to do a bit of both. Beth Vyse show ‘As Funny As Cancer’ finds the comedian looking back on a time when she laughed as much as she cried, and is all the stronger for it.
The show begins with a distinction between reality and the dream world. Beth Vyse enters the stage wearing a blonde wig and speaking with a Southern-American drawl, everything she has ever wanted is written in bold marker hanging from the curtain behind her. This version of Beth gets to choose who and what she is. The real Beth Vyse, outside of this dream space, is a small brown haired woman from Stoke-On-Trent and sadly, she isn’t given those options.
Reminiscing over the last five years, Beth Vyse tracks her history with cancer, having been diagnosed at only 28. The small ironies and absurdities take centre aim, from the unfortunately named boyfriend ‘Michael Jackson’ who discovered the lump, to the choice in new-nipple-colour conversations that took place shortly thereafter. Vivid life is brought to these moments that might otherwise be tinted blue. These stories are told without bitterness and relayed onto the audience as just another part of her life. These matter-of-fact moments are the highlights of the show, with powerful emotion projected more thoroughly here.
The show's questionable elements come from the surreal moments dotted throughout. The dream version of Beth comes with a few belly laughs, but ultimately the intense audience interaction starts to wear thin around the halfway mark. The visual absurdities work best when grounded in the reality of the harrowing situations. These tidbits allow for Beth to be invested in, so when the absurd leads to a more serious moment, the affects are thoroughly felt. The dream sequences definitely aren’t a deal breaker, but detract slightly from the overall emotional affect.
Catharsis has long been found in laughter and ‘As Funny as Cancer’ works best when we get to see the healing that is taking place behind the comedian. Dragged down by moments of surrealism, Beth Vyse really gains traction in her straight faced observations of the worst moments. This is a worthwhile show to see for anyone looking for a little more than comedy, but be warned, best not to sit in the front row.