Monday, July 15

Karen – The Other Palace

Break-ups are always hard, but Karen’s Protagonist (Sarah Cameron-West, also the writer and producer) has just had a particularly rough one: it’s her 30th birthday, she’s at Alton Towers eating a Calippo, and she’s just been unceremoniously dumped by her long-term boyfriend, Joe.

And if things couldn’t get any worse for our Protagonist, it turns out Joe has also been having an affair with her office nemesis, Karen.

This very unfortunate event kicks off Karen, a laugh-a-minute, utterly shameless exploration of the messiest parts of heartbreak and self-discovery.

For the next 60 minutes, Karen immerses the audience in the internal and external worlds of Protagonist, who often breaks the fourth wall to talk to the audience as if they’re the other characters she’s interacting with.

Cameron-West strikes comedic gold as Protagonist, with every facial expression and line delivery working in harmony to endear us to this character — while also making us laugh very, very hard.

Photo: Dylan Woodley

The clarity with which each unique setting or scenario is created on stage with minimal set or props showcases the precision of Evie Ayres-Townsend’s direction, who brings us right into the heart of Protagonist’s world. Whether she’s on an extremely comfortable date or running into Joe and Karen in a coffee shop, we’re able to relate and sympathise with Protagonist at every twist and jolt of her bumpy emotional rollercoaster.

To enhance the contrast between Protagonist’s frenetic internal monologue and the cucumber-cool exterior she attempts (only sometimes successfully) to display to others, Oliver McNally uses lighting to hilarious effect, paired seamlessly with Sarah Spencer’s sound design. 

Script-wise, Karen sometimes treads well-trodden comic ground or leans on slightly tired tropes, but Cameron-West’s conviction and charm never fails to shine through in every moment.

The show is currently playing at The Other Palace until 24th March before returning to the Edinburgh Fringe this August, and it’s well worth getting a ticket. Whether you’ve ever been dumped mid-Calippo or not, Karen is an uproariously good time that you’ll want to tell even your biggest office enemy about.

Reviewer: Olivia Cox

Reviewed: 19th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.