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Review: Ursula Martinez’s My Stories, Your Emails

Tuesday 12 August 2014
Words Spindle

From the 5th-10th of August Southbank’s Purcell Room hosted the wonderful Ursula Martinez as she combined character comedy, confessions and a bit of stand-up to share her memories, experiences and her inbox. She says we can expect “Raw truths…lonely middle aged men, nudity and laughter.” An intriguing mix and one we’re keen to explore, especially in regard to the latter two…nudge nudge, wink wink.

This show, My Stories, Your Emails, is the result of Ursula Martinez’s infamous magic striptease act Hanky Panky being posted, against her consent, on the Internet and as a result found her inbox bombarded with enthusiastic, funny and obviously creepy men from across the globe. Ursula tells Spindle “At first I used to file my fanmail in a separate folder because it freaked me out. After a couple of years, I decided to open it, and I found it fascinating. It occurred to me then to make a show.”

We find ourselves in the setting of a lecture; one stage, two reading stands, a projector screen at the back and Ursula Martinez. Dressed in her signature grey pencil skirt suit, hair scraped back into a balletesque bun, and that famous red hanky peeking from her top left pocket, she asks ‘where are the perves?’ ‘who has come to see a bit of minge?’ The women laugh freely, the men laugh guiltily and the husbands (wives sat beside them) shuffle in their seats as they struggle to remain respectable. Having said that, it doesn’t feel pervy. She talks about sex free and fearless with confidence that may make people feel slightly uncomfortable, but they absolutely love it. She explains the two reading stands; one for her stories, one for her emails. Consequently she promises we’ll see her ‘minge’ by the end of the show. I can sense the four young men behind me beaming.

Against all odds, the ambience isn’t sexually charged. She is intriguing and we want to know more, which we shall as she begins with My Stories. She hasn’t held back; we hear about her father’s sexual preferences, her driving instructor’s inappropriateness, her racist grandmother Sybil and in general about her childhood, her life experiences and the thoughts these surfaced for her. Some stories are just a sentence or two. Some stories are abstract and random which ironically clarify her to us more and more. One common denominator you find is that whether the story is funny, sad, worrying or even disgusting…Ursula’s storytelling abilities and delivery is honest, expressive and downright funny.

Lights dim down and Ursula plays us her Hanky Panky Internet footage which breaks up the performance and leads us into part 2: Your Emails. Ursula returns to the stage in her ‘comfies’ representing herself as Ursula the person, not the performer. For every email, we are shown a photo of the author on the screen at the back of the stage (absolute comedy gold, and slightly traumatising). Ursula reads every email in the comedy character she has created for each one from the information she has; accents, mannerisms and characteristics she may have gathered from the email. This is brilliant-she is mirroring the assumptions they made of her from seeing the video.

The show was intelligent, funny, enticing and dynamic. Ursula’s charm is in her confidence; she doesn’t take herself to seriously which allows her to explore endless avenues of performance through her honesty. However, receiving all those overwhelming emails from men, on a general pretence of sexual desire must be quite exasperating for an intelligent woman like Ursula. And for that reason I believe, this show is has turned those tables around to give it artistic value and make it something fun. She did say, “when it stops being fun, that’s when I’ll quit.”

Oh, and she did get her kit off. No magic trick, no teasing. She literally stripped right off in two seconds and then said her goodbyes. Legend

Ursula will be performing with the circus/variety show La Soiree in London and Australia before she begins making her next solo show, named Free Admission.

Words: Irune ‘Rue’ Chamberlain