It's been eight years since I first saw Ursula Martinez performing in London and was introduced to her hilarious tongue-in-cheek humour. Presented as part of the Midsumma Festival, Martinez returns to the stage with Free Admission, a show full of her unique comedy stylings which has us questioning how our thoughts and choices can easily prevent us from leading the life we desire, while also wittily providing a literal lesson in construction for us.
Martinez's delivery is well paced with an intentional air of awkwardness as she initially speaks in a slow speech, as if what she is sharing about life is taboo and shouldn't be spoken about. As the show progresses the confidence in her voice begins to pick up and finds her a new rhythm. While
a small portion of the dialogue is quite jarring (and perhaps that is her intention), the majority gives Martinez the opportunity to open up amusingly but affectingly about her insecurities, hopes, fears and disappointments.
As she shares these with us, Martinez begins to build an actual wall between
herself and the audience, further emphasising this idea of being caged
in or locked up with your own thoughts and shutting out the world and other people. With America's current attempts to build
a wall along the border of Mexico, this is quite a powerful topical element of
the show, and while Free Admission does not explicitly reference this,
it is still poignantly political with references to gender and sexuality,
refugees, feminism and equality.
The last two are further adressed with Martinez' outfit; wearing a black top with a crisp white
pant-suit and with her hair tied up in a bun, she dons a pair of dirty
work-gloves and begins constructing her wall. Appearances can be
deceiving and Martinez is all about breaking preconceived notions and
By the end, Martinez shows the freedom and joy of breaking through the wall in a finale that is uplifting and positive. Free Admission is a well-crafted and intelligent show that is busy building up big ideas and deconstructing important issues: has a lot to say, and a whole lot more to love and think about.
Free Admission was performed at Arts Centre Melbourne between 31 January - 5 February 2017.
* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 5 February 2017.