Joy France in Manchester, 2013
Mention the word 'Joy' to any northern poet and they might well respond “Balls!”, but not for the reasons you'd suppose. ‘Balls’ just happens to be the title and subject matter for one of Joy France's most successful comedy poems, and also the acrostic building blocks for her one-woman standup comedy show, which debuted at the Women in Comedy festival in Manchester this week-end.
Joy France is a rising star of the north-west performance poetry scene. After winning the Warrington heat of the Commonword slam, she will be appearing in the Manchester final, on Wednesday 9 October.
Although a Salford lass by birth, it would be fair to say that Joy's poetic heart lies in her home town Wigan, and at the Tudor House hotel, where three years ago she was first inspired to go on stage. The metamorphosis from shaking, nervous reader to confident, consummate performer has been dramatic.
“Expect the unexpected” would be a fair warning to anyone going to watch her perform. Her ability to write both serious and comedic material and to seamlessly switch between the two in performance makes for an interesting and unforgettable audience experience.
The show itself is a pastiche of poetry, personal anecdote and pie-slappingly good humour, a surreal journey, where humans morph into penguins and cabbages to dogs. She demonstrates that the best material for comedy can be often found in the everyday situations we find ourselves in, though she does seem to have a knack for attracting unusual people, who do unusual things.
The show is drawn to a close by Joy sharing her top five performance tips, which I thought could also be applied to life. It brings to mind the “Life is but a stage...and men and women merely players” quote:
Always check your keks before getting on stage - and gents check your flies!
Laugh at yourself
Let out your quirky side
I would also like to consider the questions with which Joy opened her show. Why is there a Women in Comedy Festival? Why was Joy France in it? And why the penguin?
The festival is the first of its kind in the UK, designed by those with a desire to see women better represented in the world of comedy. Hopefully we'll see many more and other women seeing these performances will feel empowered to have a go, just like Joy France did, three years ago at the Write Out Loud Wigan night at the Tudor House hotel.
Why the penguin? I couldn't begin to explain - but hopefully one day Joy France will, somewhere near you.