Sonia Aste ‘warmed up’ the crowd by joking about the summer heat. Her Made in Spain show fittingly took place on a hot evening in The Jam Factory’s ‘Boiler Room’ Gallery as one of twenty-six acts in the Oxford Festival Fringe Preview Comedy Festival happening over the last month.
This animated Spaniard residing in the UK did not merely put on a comedic monologue, she also included singing, an audience-assembled percussion ensemble, and tasked herself with running a networking event-cum-dating site all in one hour. The atmosphere was warm (not just the kind measured by a thermometer) as she interviewed audience members from different countries, and hoped the Spaniards Juan and Geraldine from the first two rows knew each other. Aste quickly informed us that her loyalties lie with the Real Madrid Football Club (unlike Juan, the Barcelona fan from Madrid in the front row), and showed us the jersey to prove it. Overall, she made clever use of props and placards throughout the evening - cueing us to applaud and laugh, and getting the audience even more involved with maracas, a tambourine, and güiro (but where were the castanets?).
Another participatory aspect included Aste’s ability to hand over the direction of her show to the girl from Miami in the front row and perform jokes on demand. This audience member was presented with classical and experimental tapas menus, and selected alliterative dishes such as 'Festival Fries', which included jokes about La Tomatina and San Fermín, and 'Hat Hotpot' which compared religious clothing traditions.
One of my favourite parts was the musical quiz section, in which Aste sang tunes with Spanish terms (e.g.'Can you hear the drums Fernando?') and the audience had to guess whether it was Made in Spain or not. She was overjoyed when we correctly said 'Despacito' is from Puerto Rico, and launched into a spirited discussion of diminutive words ending in –ito. I only wish this section had included a few more songs, but we had more menu items to get through!
For the most part, Aste’s tapas-themed act appropriately embodied the Mediterranean small plate culture, giving us a spread of various comedic topics. I did not leave hungry as we covered weather, the World Cup, local news, Spanish tourism, Catholicism, bullfighting, and the language of the abanico. Aste insisted we could not leave without getting a taste of her Brexit jokes - a bittersweet final course with a rousing rendition of 1981 punk rock song that she would sing to Theresa May. You’ll have to attend her next show at Edinburgh Fringe to hear it!