REVIEW: Simone’s Speaking Service

John Tothill’s remarkably funny character comedy returns to Cambridge to give you the life coaching you never knew you needed.

Cambridge Theatre Corpus Playroom monologues simone's speaking service

Having made it through the trials of Michaelmas, only to be thrown back into the deep end at Lent, many of us need a motivational woman to remind us to “Follow your dreams”.

Luckily for us, John Tothill’s triumphant, ball-breaking entrepreneur Simone-Diane le Roulé, accompanied by a host of “guests”, is here to give the pep talk to really motivate you to change your own life for one of far more success. Well, at least to aim as high as the lofty heights of a city councillor.

Poster designed by Oscar Yang

The one-man show was driven by Tothill’s superb and sustained characterisation across the range of people portrayed. Some characters played particularly well to a Cambridge student audience; the lecturer, Professor Julian Pringle, a repeat guest from a previous show, was met with a great deal of anticipatory whooping from the audience. As a delightfully sincere man, Tothill embodied the most recognisable aspects of every lecturer who really is dying for someone to love their subject matter just as much as them, which played out to peals of laughter from the audience. Other guests ranged from a town councillor John Higgins to Rupert Barns the arms dealer, with an impressive range of clever physical ticks. Each skit could have been tied closer to the premise of the show, but despite some overlap of particular vocal inflections, Tothill’s physicality and vocalisation – especially accent work -was distinct, believable and nuanced.

John Topthill as an alternative kind of life coach [Credit: Amelia Oakley]

Tothill’s comedic writing talent is more than clear. Quick quips and subverted expectations define the script, as well as longer development sections drawing in the audience only to expel them with a burst of laughter at the end. Political moments, especially in the John Higgins character, were brief but added another well appreciated layer of satirical bite. A highlight was his witty self-referencing and occasional popping and reforming of the fourth wall, which kept the audience simultaneously aware of the reccurring tricks and tropes of the comedy show whilst remaining involved and invested in the characters.

Use of recordings, projections and voice overs were particularly noteworthy, used not only as slick narrative devices but also as a source of comedy. From accidental beautiful Latino men, to slide projections, the production was well-designed and executed. Patrick Brooks’ cinematography of the opening sequence also played well with the audience, and as for the finale, all I can say was that it was a well-kept secret, which I wouldn’t dare spoil!

[Credit: Amelia Oakley]

Overall, a polished, energetic, performance showing the best of character comedy. Another room of students is now transformed from mere academics to young people ready to go and tackle any job interview dilemma the world can throw at them. Including animal husbandry.

You’ll have to go and see the show to find out how that one works.