IT’s just like watching a ferret down a rathole, was a description of a very strong-willed lady as she began a discussion about a new contract. The ferocious intent that description conjures up could well be applied to actor, singer, comedian, and writer Tracey Collins in the way in which she swept onto the Tobacco Factory stage demanding attention from every one of her audience.
Having made that contact she was generous with her talent, going flat out to involve the audience in every aspect of the show. One minute she was playing the pantomime Dame demanding a response, the next marching around among the paying customers throwing out innuendoes like an old-time variety comedian. In between she found time to be a classic bingo number caller – every member of the audience had been issued on entry with two bingo cards and a pen – and then fully milk the comic possibilities from each winning contestant.
All of this done was in the guise of Audrey Hepburn, with little black dress, necklace and long cigarette holder, as seen in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Compared to her portraits of Tina Turner, Elvis Presley and Cher, the Audrey Heartburn character was a shadowy figure of the original, but it served the purpose, giving Tracey Collins a solid base to draw the audience into her comic web, and encourage them to join in every musical number.
Any writer/comedian performing a one-person show, who relies on audience reaction to the extent that Tracey does with this one, is taking a big risk – by its very nature every performance is going to vary wildly, depending on the audience response and willingness to join in the fun. The one assembled at the Tobacco factory may have been a little short on numbers, but it made up for that with as great a determination to be part of the show, as Tracey Colins was determined they should be. Having been invited on stage once to help retrieve a wayward bingo ball, Sam was waiting like a greyhound in the slips to bound on again every time another one escaped the caller’s grasp. Meanwhile, in the audience another gentleman happily formed a slightly naughty double act with Tracey as they explored the possibilities of a personal relationship. As for the groups of young women who had come to the show with one thing in mind – to let their hair down and join in at every possible occasion, particularly when Tracey burst into song – they formed a ready-made backing group throughout the evening.
With just two tables and a handful of props, and the faithful Tom in the lighting/sound box, it was all down to Tracey to keep the fun flowing for a couple of hours. You can argue as to whether or not there was enough variety of material in this show to fill that time, but there can be no question about the commitment, energy and determination of the writer-singer-comedian to make the most of every word, note and piece of audience reaction at her disposal.