Mandy Picks A Husband presented by Amanda Broomell
What is it?
Forty year old Amanda, an ex financial Vice President turned essential oils salesperson turned performer, takes the audience through a whistle stop tour of her life through the eyes of the men she has loved, lost and felt pretty indifferent about.
What is it all about?
A one-woman show in the truest sense of the word, Mandy Picks a Husband sees Amanda Broomell take to the stage with only two chairs for company. From her early days as a 'fat' child, through to her difficult teenage years, equally difficult college years and difficult adult years, Amanda takes us along what essentially feels like a very performative therapy session, in which she plots out her life in relation to the men in it. She tells us that she is obsessed with the American TV show 'The Bachelor' and all its spin-offs, throwing out a few references which goes straight over the head of the British, 'Love Island' loyal audience.
All she wants, all she has ever really wanted, is a husband. And more than that, to be loved. Throughout the show, Broomell sings acapella snippets of popular love songs, changing lyrics to suit her situation. While one or two work and produce a chuckle, more often than not the songs go on slightly too long, and don't seem to add anything to the theatrical experience as a whole.The show sees Brumell try and fail over and over again to find the man of her dreams, and it becomes clear that her frantic need for acceptance leads her into dangerous and self destructive behaviour.
Early on in the piece, Broomell lets us in on her first therapy session in college (her characterisation of her spikey haired, New-Yorker therapist being one of the highlights of the whole show), where she first utters out loud a trauma from her childhood which she inherently knows is the root of her dysfunction. This part of the show is difficult to watch, but is handled with grace and control by Broomell, who manages to at once be both the forty year old woman telling the story, and also the ten year old experiencing it. After locating this experience in the context of her relationship with men, Broomell drives full speed ahead through the next twenty years of her life, through her time working as a corporate VP, to selling essential oils, to an obsession with self-help books, and participating in slightly dodgy life coaching courses.
How did it make me feel?
While Broomell does well to cover an entire life in just an hour, at times the lack of detail and nuance allows for slight disengagement with the material. There is a sense that while Broomell had shown us her life, there is a distinct lack of self-interrogation. Whilst Broomell has a number of 'revelations' during the play, in which she decides that getting a life coach, or facial acupuncture, or talk therapy, is the new quick fix for healing, she never takes a moment to ask herself what this all means. Every time it seems that a lesson has been learnt, or an epiphany has been found, Broomell is suddenly back to square one again, unhealed, drinking too much and desperate for a husband. Whilst understanding that life doesn't contain neat endings or conclusions, it feels at times as though Broomell has forgotten she is writing a piece of theatre, which requires structure and plot, and not talking in circles to friends.
Whilst Broomell dedicates some of the one hour running time to the sort of physical, role-play style comedy one would expect from a play which promises to take its audience jauntily through the love life of its performer, much of the time the audience are playing catch up while Broomell breathlessly covers swaths of time, without going into much detail or nuance. The show ends very quickly, without much ceremony or conclusion, and feels almost like an afterthought.
Mandy Picks A Husband is playing at Canal Cafe Theatre until the 8th December 2019.
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