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Reviewed by John Smythe, 15 May 2009

The best show not in the Comedy Festival is Jonna’s Body, Please Hold – and if it was, it would be one of the best shows in it. About having cancer, and being a cancer survivor, it is funny, insightful, ingenious, dramatic and finally moving, not because it is sad, painful or overwhelming but because it has great spirit.

L.A.-based Jonna Tamases (married to a “little Kiwi grumpy clown”) had worked with Californian improv troupes before the big C waylaid her, and in remission she became a clown with Ringling Bros Circus. This show sees her playing a range of parts of her own body, all trying to communicate with Jonna’s consciousness via a central ‘switchboard’ operated by consummate telephonist Pearl.

From Sergeant Coif, in charge of her hair, through her upper back, boobs and bowels to her long-suffering little toe, the internal struggles are played out inexorably while Jonna – not really listening to her body initially – attempts to fulfil her assumed destiny as a woman. Intriguingly Coif is English (Monty meets Henry V); her boobs, Uta and Ula, are East European, while the unwelcomed guests are Gallic: one suave and charming; the other malevolent and murderous.

Splendidly characterised, physically and vocally, the body activity scenarios are interspersed with direct address chat to the audience: Jonna simply telling her story. Being true, life-threatening and life-affirming, it is a dramatically rich experience, enhanced by her extremely engaging personality, sense of humour and performing skills.

In short: a triumph.

Having played once only in Wellington, it has single showings in Nelson then Auckland (click on title above for details). There is also an award-winning film version on DVD (go to www.madlively.com/productions/jonnasbody-movie/ for details).

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