By Paul Campobasso
What’s it like to be a native English speaker (or Anglophone) living in Paris?
Comedian Jacqueline Mifsud knows, as she does away with all the stereotypes and shares her own unique comical insight into the City of Lights as part of the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival – and it’s a good thing too because her latest show, The Anglophone and Other Offensive Instruments, is lively and funny.
Inspired by her four year stay in Paris (during which she resided at over a dozen locations and lived off tips she earned as a free tour guide) Mifsud’s comedy routine details how her simple plan of moving to France to learn the language ultimately devolved into a major identity crisis and a quest for self-exploration through a series of misadventures and bizarre social interactions.
Upon entering the sold out performance at Loop bar, Mifsud instantly reminds me of a stern librarian; however, her character is hardly as clean and orderly as her appearance. Coming across as a very animated, often insecure, little crude, slightly obsessive and neurotic; Mifsud makes an engaging francophile.
From the very beginning Mifsud’s incredible skill as a storyteller is always evident. With great energy she brings to life each hilarious scenario detailing her desperate attempts to fit in with the Paris crowds while striving to learn and speak the language, ultimately resulting in embarrassing misunderstandings.
Laced throughout her many anecdotes are unique segments in which Mifsud takes on the role of a French tutor, utilising the visual aid of a projector to teach the audience words and phrases that generally have some relation to her stories.
At first it seems a bit strange for Mifsud to regularly disrupt the flow of her own storytelling by shifting the audience’s gaze and attention off herself and onto a PowerPoint display (especially when the equipment seems a little faulty and unresponsive). However, the way she continues to engage with her audience and encourage their participation by having them repeat French phrases with the correct pronunciation and meanings enhances the delivery of each punchline.
Overall her witty demeanour and colourful delivery of each scenario has her audience engaged and hardly a second went by where I didn’t hear consistent laughter from the crowd, which is not an easy feat to accomplish for a show that exceeds an hour (from start to finish I was in my seat for nearly 90 minutes).
Mifsud’s comedy offers a perfect balance of entertainment and education, which should strike accord with any English speaker who has lived abroad. Not only does the audience receive an accessible and constantly funny experience with over an hour of non-stop laughs, but also leave with some comical and quintessentially crude French phrases.