Jennifer Wong has very good English. She knows this because she’s been told so by complete strangers. She’s so good at English, in fact, she’s written a whole show about it. How To English Harder plays around with language in fun and unexpected ways, bringing together the cheesiest of wordplay with some sharp social commentary – like a sharp knife, cutting through the aforementioned cheese.
The show is structured into a few different “lessons”, each divided by short bursts of audio from a cardboard cassette player that sits on stage. These sections are in the style of a language lesson tape, and give Wong a good jumping off point to shift to a new topic. As Wong repeatedly points out, there are no actual English lessons in the show, but there are plenty of jokes. Wong is clearly someone who loves the English language and who loves a pun even more. The show is riddled with them. Wong appeared to delight in the audience’s groans every time she made one.
In How To English Harder, Wong explores both the English language and what it can mean in today’s political climate. It can be a way to communicate with others, but it can also be used to exclude, to judge, to draw a line between “us” and “them”. Wong deftly weaves in punchy political humour amongst the more twee language-based material and it hits hard every time. It’s a glimmer of a stronger, more opinionated show that lies just underneath the witticisms on the surface.
How To English Harder isn’t the kind of show that has the audience rolling in the aisles, but the material is clever and keeps the audience engaged throughout. The show was occasionally let down by what looked like a lack of confidence from Wong. Her delivery is fairly soft and self-deprecating, and when combined with recurring apologies about the room being hotter than usual, it came across as though Wong didn’t feel the show was going as well as it could. There’s some really funny material in the show, but Wong doesn’t sell it as hard as is needed.
How To English Harder is a thoroughly entertaining effort from Wong. The balance of wordplay and commentary always keeps things interesting, and Wong is a performer who’s a lot of fun to watch.
Jennifer Wong – How To English Harder was on at The Forum Theatre Ladies Lounge