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  • Writer's pictureFrank Schierloh

Review: Madame Ovary (Inis Nua Theatre Company, Philadelphia, PA)

A Hilarious and Heartfelt Tale of a Young Person with Cancer.

What happens when the naive feeling of invincibility that accompanies youth comes crashing down around a person? That is the story at the heart of Inis Nua Theatre Company’s American Premiere of the solo show Madame Ovary, which debuted in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and continues Inis Nua’s mission of producing works from the UK and Ireland. A show that is filled to the brim with humor, heart, and a brilliant combination of performer and playwright, Madame Ovary is a wonderful night at the theatre.


It's Not Fleabag!

Madame Ovary tells the story of Rosa, a 23 year old theatre artist living in London. They’re struggling with their career and romantic life, and feel like they can’t catch a break. As the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve, they make several promises to themself, including most importantly, that they will take time to take care of their body. Little do they know how important that mantra will become, as they start to experience several symptoms that lead them to ultimately checking into the hospital. Once there, they are diagnosed with cancer, and they take the audience with them on their journey through treatment.

This show is based on playwright Rosa Hesmondhalgh’s actual experience of getting ovarian cancer. The struggle of this experience is expertly brought to life by performer Satchel Williams. It’s a perfect match between playwright and performer: Williams is instantly charismatic and energetic from the moment they step on stage. They’re able to navigate the extreme emotions that Rosa goes through effortlessly, and allow for an effective rawness that is simultaneously heartwarming and harrowing. They allow the audience to immediately connect with them, making it so much more impactful to watch as they go through this unimaginable diagnosis and treatment.

A Scene from Madame Ovary.
Satchel Williams in a Promo shot for Inis Nua's 2023 Production of Madame Ovary.

A Unique Experience

Director Charlotte Northeast utilizes the space well, and understands that the key to a successful solo show is simplicity. A small bar cart with some props is all that is needed to help effectively tell this story. Partnering with Fergie’s Pub is a smart and effective choice to make the audience feel instantly at ease, and more open to Rosa’s story. The use of projections was an area that could use improvement, with some of the timing cues needed to be tightened just a hair, which is a small gripe in an overall wonderful evening.

Inis Nua’s “pop up play in a pub” series is truly a unique and special experience in this city. Tickets also include a savory pie from local UK pie shop Stargazy, which are so good, and really help heighten Inis Nua’s theatrical mission of presenting works from the UK and Ireland. Madame Ovary is a wonderful solo-show experience, that is as charming and funny as it is devastating. Bolstered by a fantastic central performance and delicious pies, this is a theatrical experience not to be missed.

Madame Ovary is on stage now

upstairs at Fergie's Pub (1214 Sansom St.) until November 19th, 2023.

For more information visit

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