“I don’t want that on my gravestone,” Liz Kingsman tells me from the foyer of the Sydney Opera House when I ask her about the legacy of her highly successful stage show, One Woman Show.
The Australian-born actress and comedian is back in her hometown to perform the globally lauded performance that has earned her universal five-stars from her run on London’s West End.
It’s been described as the anti-Fleabag, or a “takedown of the messy woman trope”, but Liz says that’s taking her very meta and self-referential performance a little too literally.
“This is the press eating itself!” Liz told me.
“The press decided [One Woman Show] is this ‘messy woman trope‘ and that just keeps getting repeated and it’s very funny to me because I made this thing and pointed something out in a very silly way and then I find myself in a situation where I’ve had to talk about it cerebrally and I’m like, ‘It’s so dumb’.”
Having moved to England at 19 for university, Liz has nailed the quintessential self-deprecating British-ism: she never takes herself too seriously, constantly plays down her achievements and constantly apologises for her own success.
“I find [the whole thing] quite embarrassing,” Liz says.
Not in a way that positions her as ashamed of the work that she’s done or the success it’s amounted to, but how her “silly” production poking fun at how media are portrayed has snowballed into the poster child for post-irony.
“I genuinely never wanted to do one [a stage production]. Not only was it not on the ‘hopes and dreams’ list but I was also like ‘why would I spend so much time doing that?’ It sounded exhausting. And I’m exhausted, but creatively nourished.”
For Liz, the transition of going from sit-com actress on European television (her acting credits include recurring roles on French sitcom Parlemant and stints on Borderline) to burgeoning theatre star wasn’t ever on her pipeline—and still to this day Liz will deny that One Woman Show is the ‘thing’ that makes her.
“This was never meant to be the ‘thing’, it’s still not meant to be the ‘thing’.”
You see, One Woman Show was never intended to take on the life that it has become.
As Liz told me, the show started as a creative diversion from a film script she promised her agent she’d deliver—and still to this day hasn’t.
“Instead of doing the film script, I was like, ‘I’m just gonna very quickly get this other thing out of my system’ because I was scared that it would be this idea I had that I talked about that I never did,” she said.
“Then it just took over.” She pauses.
“This is a distraction from the things actually on my ‘hopes and dreams’ list. But it’s a very fun distraction, that’s gone, arguably too far.”
Regardless, the ‘distraction’ (as Liz puts it) has earned her the title of ‘new Queen of British comedy’ and cemented her status as one of the fiercest voices of comedy—sure, Liz may be a bit detached from the newfound clout, but given the phrase ‘theater actress’ appears on her Wikipedia page, it may be one she has to come to terms with.
“This headline that keeps coming up attached to my press coverage ‘new queen of comedy’ is so bizarre to me, because it implies the idea of like, there only being enough space for one woman to thrive at a time, which is literally that one of the things I’m making fun of in the show,” Liz explains, laughing at the situation she finds herself in.
“It’s funny for that to be related ad infinitum because the show has started eating itself in ways that have gone beyond the meta. The show is already very meta,” she urges.
“The press has actually made it even more meta, and this trajectory of the show has made the character funnier, because the character is awful. She is desperate for success, not success….she wants her time and notoriety and has a sense of entitlement.”
So, One Woman Show isn’t an anti-Fleabag take down, nor is it the modern Bridget Jones or even the 2023 version of Everything I Know About Love. In Liz’s opinion, it’s not even a cerebral piece of social commentary.
There’s this sense that women were being duped, that this version of a modern woman was the only one,” Liz said.
“It felt like we’d been like ‘women are complete, we’ve done it, we’ve completed it!’ but that’s not right because if we dug a little bit, we’d find loads of other different types of women that are quite interesting.
“The show just came from that sense of not letting ourselves be duped by the powers that be into repeating ourselves, just because if that’s commercially viable.”
I note to Liz that her intention of critiquing the media’s perception of women existing in the contemporary age by creating One Woman Show about a woman putting on a one woman show is genius Matrix-esque stroke.
But again, Liz doesn’t see it this way.
“I had a woman say to me after she had seen the show three times that she found such sadness to it, like an Inception underlying layer of sadness and depth. So, if people can take less sadness from it… it’s just nonsense.”
Despite what messages or takeaways are prescribed to it. Liz hope you won’t be left with a profound, life-altering paradigm shift after watching One Woman Show.
“What’s it called when you watch something and it doesn’t mean anything or whatever but you still enjoy it?” Liz asked me.
“Entertainment?” I suggest.
“That’s the word I’m looking for!” she replies. “Entertainment.”
I end our chat by telling Liz I’m excited to see the show, but in typical Liz fashion she dodges the complement all together.
“Why don’t you try and work on lowering your expectations over the next week and try to get it right back down again so you will actually have a nice night,” she suggests, in all seriousness.
“But you could just watch The Matrix on your phone if you don’t enjoy it and I think you’ll have the same experience—but the first one, I want it on record that I mean the first one.”
One Woman Show is running at the Sydney Opera House from February 1 to February 19. Tickets are available to purchase online here.