There’s no shortage of fringe shows exploring how and when people find their creative outlet. At first glance, Lisa O’Hare’s one-woman show on her mid-life epiphany (it’s not a crisis), and her re-discovery of poetry, might feel like it’s covering well-trodden ground.
That doesn’t make it any less valid, though. An empathetic and enigmatic performer can help an audience enjoy anew a familiar story. That’s exactly what’s achieved in Do you remember the first rhyme?.
Part monologue, part poetry performance, O’Hare transitions effortlessly between prose and verse. The show might take a little while to get going but as soon as the first self-penned rhyme is performed the audience relax in the knowledge they’re in the hands of a fabulous performer of spoken word.
In some ways, the show is as much about the loss of creativity as it is about its eventual re-discovery. An early love of Spike Milligan silliness is tainted when O’Hare’s Catholic school finds out she’s become an ‘imaginative modifier of details’. A spot of ‘effervescent convalescence’ and performative poetry during a hospital stay aside, life gets in the way and career goals become the priority.
Early on, O’Hare promises the audience the show won’t take a dark turn after the mention of a now notorious TV show which gifted kids their wishes. She keeps to her word. This is an overwhelmingly heart-warming and positive experience.
Chock full of 80s and 90s pop culture references, O’Hare’s writing is imaginative but also tight and focused. The show zips along and the audience is never bored or distracted.
Early nerves were soon dispelled and, aside from a couple of energy-breaking and awkward moments to take a sip of water, the performance is strong. O’Hare shows her acting chops in several laugh out loud routines, including one involving horse excrement. She can sing too.
Moments of real emotion were heightened in this performance with members of O’Hare’s family in the audience, nodding along to intensely powerful memories.
Although the moral of the story – learning to lead a full life, not a dull life – might be a familiar one this is an accomplished and emotional telling of it. It is at its best when poetry and speech is seamlessly woven together and could maybe be improved by using that device sooner and more often.
Thank goodness for us O’Hare had that mid-life epiphany.
The Greater Manchester Fringe runs until 31st July 2022 and tickets can be found at www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk
Reviewer: Peter Ruddick
Reviewed: 10th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★