Beth Vyse presents an autobiographical tale of youth, cancer, and Michael Jackson. It's amusing in parts, but most of the appeal comes from her willingness to display vulnerability, and share such personal experiences.
Vyse's story begins with her time in drama college and The Royal Shakespeare company – and it's easy to discern the impact of these experiences. She's a confident performer who displays her emotions candidly as she recounts the more tragic segments of her story. There is humour woven through too, and her wry perspective on difficult events in her life is brave to say the least. Often, however, the segues between pathos and whimsy aren't quite smooth enough to steer between the contrasting tones – there's often a slight hesitancy in an audience unsure whether or not they're supposed to laugh.
There's some excellent use of audio effects, particularly the pervading drone of the MRI machine during a description of a hospital experience. Some parts are slightly underdeveloped, lacking necessary backstory to make a joke work. Elsewhere, timelines are confusing to follow. The chronology isn't a dealbreaker, but it does undermine an otherwise engaging narrative.
Vyse has led a life worth sharing, and her dramatic portrayal of it feels cathartic. As the show's title suggests, comedy can be derived from tragedy, but As Funny as Cancer doesn't have quite enough humour to balance the poignancy and truly elevate the show into something more well-rounded. However, it remains an enjoyable celebration of levity in the face of adversity.