Sunday, September 24

Wife Material – Camden People’s Theatre

Sophia and Heleana Blackwell are a married stand-up comedy and poetry duo. Two lesbians tell us about the trials, tribulations and satisfactions of marriage. There is poetry, improvised songs and duets. Sophia and Heleana share a vibrant chemistry of opposites attracting. They intersperse one another’s stories recollecting how they met, got married and tug of disagreements solely about duvet covers.

The show, first performed at the RVT, returns to the Camden Fringe and is the love story we yearn for and deserve. In the onslaught of heteronormativity slapped at us across all media, the piece holds the quiet comfort of a warm cup of coffee with a friend.

Sophia is a performance poet with three published poetry collections and one novel. For two years, she hosted the LGBT+ radio show Out in South London on Resonance FM, co-hosted, and produced The Polari Podcast with Paul Burston. Bloomsbury published her first non-fiction book in the Autumn of 2022.

Heleana performs observational LGBTQ-friendly comedy at top venues across London, including 21Soho, The Seven Dials Club, Blacks Club, Battersea Arts Centre and The Apple Tree. Director Maria Shehata has helped evolve the work as two separate acts into a theatrical and composite double bill with a great play of light, music and stagecraft.

The piece also allows Heleana to platform the realities of how black women might not care for the beach after all the effort goes into their hair. The truth of some mum’s love language being catastrophising is that she does a brilliant sing-along parody with the famous Bob Marley song. Being Irish, Italian and English, Sophia speaks about her large family and the importance of being able to get married.

Helena and Sophia share their trajectories of stepping into their lesbian selves, with the not-so-shocking revelation of trying to date men. Their sharing about the reality of living in London, buying a house together and disagreeing about duvet covers could find many resonances across the audience.

The couple also grounds the piece with the opposing view about the queer relationships that might not serve us and leave us with scars. The reality of growing up with anti-gay Section 28 laws and being able to access marriage equality a year into their relationship are milestones for the entire community.

Go for the romance, the quiet assertion, and many might argue that queer people must not cling to the marriage narrative, but one can’t deny the importance to those on whose shoulders we stand. Now let’s get a gaggle of polyamory stand-up comedians on stage already.

Reviewer: Anisha Pucadyil

Reviewed: 19th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.