The Death Of Anna Mann: Watching A Comedian Die On Stage Has Never Been So Funny
You might recognise Anna Mann from her beguiling appearance as an orthodontist in Cannibal Bagpipers. Maybe her scene-stealing one-liner on Holby? "Little ripple of recognition over there," suggests Mann optimistically, gesturing to no one in particular.
Or of course, you might recognise Anna Mann as the ingenious creation of Colin Hoult — a kind of Steven Toast-in-drag, whose dramatic life has taken her from the lows of a Midlands egg sandwich shop to the heady heights of a role in the elevated Shakespeare adaptation, Measure for Measure for Measure.
Yet now, it is time for Anna to shuffle off this mortal coil — and frankly, seeing a comedian die on stage has never been so funny. Life flashing before her eyes, she recounts steamy love affairs with the great John Smells and thumb-fingered Tony Sandwich; her stage debut as a cold little girl ("so cold, so cold"), and the sagacious life advice from her little sister, who has a weird fondness for chasing sticks.
I admit the first time I saw Anna Mann — when she was MCing a sketch competition at Leicester Square Theatre — I felt uneasy. The problem was she was patently too darned funny, and suddenly the material I'd written for one of the acts wasn't half as hot. The brilliance of the Anna character isn't the inventiveness of the scenarios alone (though the anecdote about winging it as a surgeon will have your eyes watering with glee), but in how Hoult holds the audience in the palm of his hands. Contrary to the laws of comedy, the catchphrases ("Oh fuck off, I love it," and "Don't you go, or I'll go") only get funnier with persistence. And Hoult's whip-smart knack for inverting people into cartoonish avatars of themselves proves that no one needs to be harmed in the making of audience interaction.
As for the crescendo of dear old Anna's swan song. It is — as you'd expect from someone as gifted as Hoult — both epic and epically brilliant. In fact, fuck off, I love it.
Colin Hoult: The Death of Anna Mann, Soho Theatre, until 21 October. Note: the London show is now sold out till the end of its run — contact the box office for returns. Tickets for the show elsewhere in the UK are still available.
Last Updated 07 April 2023