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Celia Delaney: Man for Sale!

| June 28, 2017

Celia Delaney

Man for Sale!

Tea House Theatre, London, U.K., June 16, 2017

Reviewed by Fiona Coffey for Cabaret Scenes

Celia Delaney
Photo: Chris King

The Tea House Theatre on the edge of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens was the delightful setting for the unveiling of Celia Delaney’s brand new show, Man for Sale! On a sweltering June evening, this historic former Victorian pub house with its compact stage, tightly arranged wooden chairs, and glass-domed display of sponge cakes struggled to cope in the heat. Happily, the on-stage entertainment matched the sizzling conditions off-stage. Delaney’s audience was treated to a hilarious evening of comedy and song, demonstrated by her considerable multi-faceted talents as performer, in a show bursting with creative ideas.

Man for Sale! is the third in a trilogy of shows (preceded by Man Wanted! and Man Found!) in which Delaney appears to mine her autobiography with unparalleled honesty and ruthlessness in search of comedic gold. In this show’s publicity, she declares herself “married for seven years and having buyer’s remorse. Is it possible to send him back? What would someone pay for a slightly soiled husband anyway?” This sets the scene for the show’s opening number, “Man for Sale”—a reworked “Love for Sale,” and a hilarious segue from “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” charting  Delaney’s path from enchantment to disillusion. She uses her own original numbers to lampoon her husband’s occupation, explore her love of small men, and share her (first and only) experience of swinging. She also draws upon diverse material from artists such as Gloria Gaynor, Billie Holiday, Tom Lehrer, and Victoria Wood to amplify the themes of the show, explored to greatest effect in her comedy routines.

Delaney’s comic timing is superb; she combines fresh-faced innocence with a knowing gleam in the eye. Moments of self-deprecation are there, but she appears to find most pleasure in teasing us with her wickedness, her willingness to voice the unspeakable, and in playing the fine line between fact and fiction. The first half culminates in a public auctioning of her husband for cash. Presented with this very funny idea, we wonder whether it’s OK to participate. We feel sorry for her life partner and apparent stooge, yet simultaneously find it impossible to reject Delaney’s boundless warmth and charm. Therein lies the tension in her show.

Delaney was superbly accompanied by Birgitta Kenyon, also known on the London cabaret scene as “A Girl Called Fred,” who performed a solo number, “Film Noir,” from her own recent show. This was the first time Delaney and Kenyon have worked together and they make a fine pairing. It would be great to see them evolve this show together.

Man for Sale!, and Delaney’s trilogy as a whole, is a terrific concept. Her comedic skills and creativity shone through on this first airing. She also has a fine singing voice that could have been showcased even more. Going forward, I could see room to tighten the structure, particularly in the second set where the direction of the show was less certain and needed to be concluded more satisfyingly from a narrative perspective, to avoid a lingering ambiguity between truth and fiction.

However, this was a highly entertaining show that displayed the breadth of Celia Delaney’s existing skills and her enormous potential as a comedian, songwriter, and performer. She is definitely a woman to watch.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, London, London Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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