Karen From Finance is somewhat of a regular to the Edinburgh Fringe, prior to this solo show she appeared with Australian cabaret outfit Yummy! at the festival. Fresh from the fame of her RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under success, Karen returns with a solo show dubbed Karen From Finance is Out of Office which sees the star blend comedy, lip-sync and pre-recorded comic videos.
After accruing four months of backdated holiday leave, Karen From Finance is temporarily decommissioned from her office. Lost without purpose, the administrative icon soon ventures on a long-term bender which sees her stranded across cities and desperately searching for a means to make it home and get back to the office.
Opening with a pre-recorded comic video capturing Karen’s routine on the way to work, we see her taking part in the stereotypical pre-work steps with some comic touches set to 9 to 5. Perhaps a little too long and lacking in actual gags, the video does however act as a set-up to Karen’s on stage introduction before she’s temporarily dismissed from the office.
Karen’s journey into binge-drinking oblivion soon follows with another pre-recorded video capturing her antics on her long-standing bender. Again it is slightly too long yet does pack some crude comic punches as Karen gradually degrades herself with increasingly grotesque situations. Karen packs several lip-syncs into the production including numbers including Shirley Bassey’s take on This Is My Life, Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 and I Will Always Love You, and Celine Dion’s I Drove All Night. These are big crowd-pleasers that bring some high energy sparkle to Out of Office.
There’s some added audience interaction in which Karen arranges a hook-up played by an audience member dubbed Big Rig 69. It’s a definite moment of avoiding eye contact and some uncomfortable squirming, something that continued for the poor audience member dragged on stage. There’s some further awkwardness as Karen attempts to boost-up her Instagram followers demanding that audience members bring out their phones and follow her. Played as a narrative bit so Karen can enter a ‘Lip Synch’ competition, it is a little uncomfortable as audience members scramble to avoid the performer’s gaze.
One of the main highlights of Out of Office is Karen’s original track. This marks the sole moment of live singing and it is an undeniably catchy little pop number that the audience are quick to get in the groove of.
There’s actually a surprisingly effective message in Out of Office which tells us to step back from the commitments of our work which eat into more precious personal and family time, with Karen gradually stripped from her work-dependant mentality as the narrative progresses.