Martinez performed at the Contact Theatre in Manchester on 21st November 2015 after spells in Soho and the Southbank Centre in London. Contact is on Manchester’s Oxford Road, near to the university and holds events that concentrate on LGBT performance as part of the annual Queer Contact. Which is how I first heard about it.
The measure of a good show, in my opinion, is two things; 1) it sparks conversation and 2) when it finishes, you can’t believe it’s already time to leave your seat.
Ursula Martinez: Free Admission certainly ticks both those boxes.
She’s a known provocateur who isn’t afraid to break taboo. Having never seen one of her shows before, I wasn’t sure what to expect (you never can be when someone is described as a ‘provocateur’) but I came away wanting to see more of her shows and promising to spend the whole of my Sunday on Youtube catching up on previous performances (in case you want to, they’re NSFW).
The show was just an hour long, skipped the interval altogether (which I think the best always do) and it was intense. The audience chatter afterwards was overwhelmingly positive. Martinez even received a standing ovation from some.
The performance sees Martinez literally building a wall as she metaphorically breaks down societies’ views on matters ranging from sex to her late father’s death. As the wall became higher and we physically we see less of Martinez, she bares more of her innermost thoughts, that most of us would hesitate even to admit to ourselves let alone to an audience. She touches on gender, race, religion, social media (plus more) and plays with bookending the really quite serious (feminism, rape and racism) with the frivolous (“taking it up the shitter“).
There were points where the audience laughed immediately before being shocked into stunned silence; her comments on attitudes to race in the 70s were particularly hard to swallow in a world where that attitude is no longer mentioned, brushed under the carpet or dressed up to be something it wasn’t. But Martinez is very no-bullshit and we see her, again literally and figuratively, baring all in this stunning monologue.
After the show, the audience is left thinking about important issues while laughing about other matters like the social media statistics shared part way through; I think if matters were addressed in this way more there would be a fresher, more accepted conversation on those vital things we all need to consider.
As part of this performance Martinez mentioned mixed reviews past shows received, and it’s true this won’t be for everyone. But if what you’re after is a fresh take on serious issues with laughs along the way then you should try to catch her. The show was only on for one night in Manchester but keep an eye out for more from this intelligent and hilarious person- she’s not be to missed. I’ll certainly see her again.