By YVONNE HUDSON
Mistress of stream-of-consciousness comedy and crossdressing, Eddie Izzard transfixed her Byham Theatre energized audience on September 28. A nearly full house of fans cheered Izzard on through a fresh repertoire of fascinating rambling about almost anything.
Recognized for her knowledge of history and politics, Izzard weaved in that context with flash references to both World Wars. Mostly, she talked about the natural world with a lovely African backdrop with only herself and one glowing Victorian London streetlight on stage.
The 1812 Overture stoked the virtually packed house audience’s anticipation before Izzard appeared center stage during her first North American tour in four years. Her 37-date Remix Tour Live show is full of the wit, laughs, and sometimes surprises Izzard fans expect, given her 35 years on international stages. Izzard’s comic stew simmers disparate elements of her three and half decades as a performer. She sprinkles references to how her lifetime journey informs her stories, having navigated the loss of his mother during his childhood, military service, attempts to break into acting, and her eventual leap into a live comedy show. Remix is a retrospective with some twists.
The rest is history sprinkled with some significant theatre, film, and concert work—all contributing to the very unexpected nature of Eddie Izzard. Expect candid, opinion, and an intellect mix of Izzard’s truths and spins on what we may or may not believe—including the existence of God. Audiences will get monkeys, some Monty Python, brilliant animal impersonations, and a healthy dose of inspiration to leave something better than they found it.
Izzards immediately put the audience on the spot with reflections on what God was and wasn’t doing in the dark onset of the world’s greatest horrors. The Holocaust? Izzard wonders what was distracting God to let THAT happen? She challenges us to believe in a god who would let those things happen and rattles off the numbers of those lost to significant conflicts and genocide. We giggle nervously and know some truths are indeed not funny.
Familiar bits emerge throughout the evening. Cake? Death? Eddie asks her invisible person on stage. Chose—cake or death! I find this so funny in Pittsburgh, where there is always a cake, whatever the occasion!
And what other performer could illicit giggles with an obscure one-word reference like “Humperdinck”—alluding to a fun bit about the singer Engelbert Humperdinck got his name. There’s no need to do the whole bit! Ha!
These kinds of reflections (which Woody Allen once so aptly called “total heaviosity”) set the comedy on edge. The audience knows Eddie will likely shock us again—not with jokes but with references to reality. Izzard is a skilled teacher who has taken her skills into many projects. Ironically, the very artistic pursuits she unsuccessfully sought are the successes listed for her now. But, like Eddie, I digress.
Self-declared a trans woman in 1985, Izzard has more recently shared she might also be known as Suzy…or Eddy if it feels like her transparency has empowered ease and art. She doesn’t hesitate to take on God, the British Empire, and more. Eddie Izzard is important as an artist and as a trans woman who has stepped out as herself. She is undoubtedly a role model for many others who need such affirmation.
Eddie wore a simple ensemble–a flattering black wrap top, cute steel blue ruffled skirt, and knee-high black boots that support that she is more comfortable than ever. Her blonde cropped hairdo framed her happy face. (I’d love to know her lipstick brand, red and perfect throughout the two-act show (albeit there was a short intermission for freshening up.)
But what the comedienne wore was simply scenery for the witty ruminations, solid facts shared as her opinion, and the rather unheard-of comic situations for which Izzard is known.
So, for the next two hours, Eddie was genuinely Eddie during this joyful and long overdue visit. Izzard shared some fun movements from shows they have given in multi-lingual bookings–French, German, and English. She throws in a classic examination of why Latin is necessary, neglected, and rejected. Poor Latin! After an example that the struggle is real, Izzard declares, “That’s how Latin died!”
The audience may revel in Izzard’s analysis of our universal struggle with languages. Still, she is a role model for what we can at least attempt to learn—more of those facts and skills that empower us to support each other, to dress how we wish, and to laugh without hesitation. That feels wonderful, and we all can use more laughter. Thank you for pushing the envelope and carrying on, Suzy!
Pittsburgh had only one night with Eddie, who next moved on to Columbus. North America tour dates through November 5 and dates in England, Scotland, and Wales through December 5 are all listed on the Eddie Izzard website.