Orlando Fringe 2017 review: 'Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up the Notch'


Shirley Gnome is a cunt. But that’s not really meant as an insult, as the award-winning Canadian performer spends several minutes of her new show, Taking It Up the Notch, explaining in song how the C-word is actually a good thing. Though that vulgar and just plain unfunny ditty, in addition to tunes encouraging animal abuse and vegan-bashing, were met with mostly crickets at Wednesday’s press review, her other songs allowed her solid singing and competent guitar playing (accompanying pre-recorded music) to shine as brightly as her cabaret costume’s rhinestones.

“I sing mostly about fucking,” Gnome tells us. And she’s not exaggerating, as Notch (written by Gnome and directed by Wes Borg) features several songs about sex and bodily functions, as did her Patrons’ Pick from last year, Real Mature. Most entertaining is the opening “Believe in Yourself,” in which she encourages women to shove whatever they can up their vaginas. And through a concealed-in-her-dress contraption that would make Steve Martin’s Great Flydini jealous, she offers a hilarious demonstration, sans actual nudity. Even more offensive (in a somewhat good way) is her nun-themed ode to her giant merkin (a Biblical “burning bush”) and her melodic explanation of why babies cry. (Hint: It has to do with vaginas.) But Gnome is actually at her best when she explores her sweet and silly side in “A Walk in the Park” (in which she advocates “crop-dusting lovers” by farting on them), “Pillows in the Shape of a Man” and “The Nipples Will Always Upstage You.” In other words, she’s better when she’s less in your face and more from her heart. Her dirty, dirty heart.

Her final number, “Death Is Coming,” will probably polarize audiences just like her other songs. Some will find it an unfunny downer, while others will appreciate Gnome’s description of her relationship with a testicular-cancer survivor. (“We had a ball because he lost the other one,” she croons.) I, for one, saw the hidden optimism when she sang “I’m so glad I met you all before I died.” Though I’m not exactly glad I experienced every moment of this show, I’m begrudgingly honored to have experienced Gnome’s bawdy talent.

Shirley Gnome: Taking it Up the Notch
Yellow Venue
Thursday, May 18, 10:45 PM
Friday, May 19, 8:30 PM
Saturday, May 20, 10:15 PM
Monday, May 22, 9:00 PM
Wednesday, May 24, 10:45 PM
Friday, May 26, 8:30 PM
Saturday, May 27, 12:00 AM

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