Venue: Library Theatre
Where: Manchester

There comes a time when a performer gets fed up of their big hit. One wonders if Ursula Martinez isn’t approaching that point. Her hit in question is a magic act in which a red hanky moves to different parts of her clothes and locating the item requires her to strip.

When this act was broadcast on the internet it generated a lot of correspondence, which Martinez has used as the basis for her new show: My Stories, Your E-Mails. The opening section is almost conventional made-up of anecdotes and recollections drawn from Martinez’s family and friends. It is gently amusing with the odd nasty moment (a racist remark spat at Martinez and her black boyfriend) to ensure that it doesn’t become too sweet.

The second section comprises the e-mails that were sent in response to the strip act along with photographs of the correspondents. E-mails are always potentially funny, as we tend to send them without taking the care we would if writing a letter. That is certainly the case with the chap who acknowledges that he will never fulfil his ambition of being a comedian because he is afraid that people will laugh at him.

A wide range of humanity is represented, including nudists who hope that Martinez will inspire others to follow their lifestyle. One lonely writer sends short notes encouraging Martinez to take her act to his neighbourhood before giving the game away by sending a photograph of himself in a thong. Martinez interprets her correspondents with sympathy, rather than mocking them in the name of entertainment.

To an extent this is surprising as one couple border on being worrying. One writer urges Martinez to share fantasies and is very reluctant to take ‘no’ for an answer. Another sends photographic evidence of just how he has appreciated the act and assures Martinez that it doesn’t diminish her artistic integrity.

My Stories, Your E-Mails, as well as being constantly funny, shows how one event can mean different things to each person and can be intereprted according to their needs. If there is a fault it is that the  reluctance of Martinez to judge her correspondents leaves a void in the show. We are given the opinions  of the correspondents but get no sense of how it feels to be assessed by a group of complete strangers.

The display of nudity at the conclusion is not to provide something for the fans but rather to illustrate that it really doesn’t matter - Martinez uses the sequence to recite her e-mail address. There is sense that Martinez is ready to move onto new ground and it will certainly be worth watching where she goes from here.

-Dave Cunningham