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Review: Gwyneth Goes Skiing (Pleasance Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale




Every now and then, a moment in celebrity culture that takes the Internet, the world and, most importantly, the gays by storm. One of the most recent moments that did just that was Gwyneth Paltrow’s 2023 ski trial. Like Wagatha Christie before it, it would take a certain kind of person to turn that madness into a show every bit as captivating and ridiculous as the trial itself. Step forward, Awkward Productions. Fresh from the success of their brilliant Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story, they are back with the story of what happened when Gwyneth Paltrow went skiing called… Gwyneth Goes Skiing. Would this show leave me gooped and gagged? I certainly wished it well in its attempts to do so.

If you are unfamiliar with Awkward Productions, they make unashamedly queer and, quite frankly, weird shows that appeal to a niche but devoted type of theatregoer. As well as the aforementioned Diana, they are also responsible for How To Live A Jellicle Life: Life Lessons From The 2019 Hit Movie Musical CATS finally ensuring something good came from that monster we’d all love to banish from our memories. The unprecedented response to the announcement of Gwyneth Goes Skiing put them on a trajectory far bigger than the niche crowd they had attracted previously, with some of the biggest publications all over the world talking about this Gwyneth musical (and being corrected to a play with music every time). The premiere run at the Pleasance Theatre sold out quicker than you can say “Head in a box” and a follow up run was quickly announced. As someone who has loved their last two productions, I was extremely excited to venture on to the slopes of Caledonian Road to watch a Swedish man take on a Hollywood A-lister.


The plot, and I of course use that term loosely, of Gwyneth Goes Skiing revisits the horrific incident in 2016 when Gwyneth Paltrow lost half a day of skiing due a (supposed) shocking accident with Dr Terry Sanderson. The first act gives us a brief history in both Gwyneth and Terry’s lives before they made the life-changing decision to go skiing at the same day and takes us right up to the moment their lives were both changed forever after she (supposedly) crashed into him. Act 2 then moves the action forward 7 years as we witness the trial of the century. Awkward Productions trademark humour and absurdity lends itself well to the surprising amount of verbatim material included in the rather ridiculous trial. As we are in a (supposed) democracy, the ending is left up to the audience to decide with two possible outcomes depending on the result of the audience vote.

Linus Karp and Joseph Martin’s writing gets more solid with each passing show. Their ability to take moments of pop culture and craft a whole show around it is a testament to their talents, and Gwyneth Goes Skiing is the perfect example of this. Playing up to perceptions and stereotypes of the well known Gwyneth and having a lot of fun with the otherwise unknown Terry gives them a seemingly blank canvas to go as weird and wacky as possible. An ingenious use of props including talking animals, puppets (dear God, the puppets) and a moving and versatile performance from a piece of fruit made this a show full of their trademark humour, while branching out to something that may have more mass appeal than normal.


I say mass appeal – as always, they are giving the gays everything they want with no shortage of pop culture references. This is particularly amplified during the trial scenes where everything from Holly Willoughby, an African grey called Chanel and the most iconic line from the recent series of The Traitors  are inserted in brilliant ways. Perhaps this may be classed as low-hanging fruit (no offence, Apple) but it works and gives us the laughs we were longing for. You would expect a show like Gwyneth Goes Skiing to be funny and it delivers in spades. From puns (watch out for Coldplay… in every sense of the word) to their descriptions and characterisations to the madness of the unfolding situations, you are never far away from your next rip-roaring laugh. One highlight included an overlong speech where Gwyneth names all of her film credits (the ones she knows she was in at least) while a very live Zoom meeting creates an abundance of laughs.

Just like Diana before it, Gwyneth Goes Skiing relies on a certain amount of audience participation. Unsuspecting audience members are approached moments before the show starts and given characters to play in the show, most notably Gwyneth’s current boyfriend and future husband and Terry’s current girlfriend and future ex-girlfriend. While this can lead to a degree of chaos and uncertainty, that is all part of the charm, and luckily on the night I went, these audience members were up for a laugh. In the interval, my partner Luke mentioned he would have liked it if audience members were picked on the spot, not knowing they were going to be part of the show. Careful what you wish for as he found himself grabbed by Gwyneth (next lawsuit incoming) in the show’s second act as he was their surprise witness and scientific expert. In trials, judges may have to recuse themselves if they have an association or connection to the case or any of the people involved. I don’t think I need to do that in this situation and can continue with this review completely unbiased about my partner’s phenomenal five-star performance that is bound to land him an Olivier nomination. It is this feeling of nobody being safe and knowing you may be moments away from being part of the unsuspecting cast that makes an Awkward Productions show so vivacious.


The actual already aware cast is also brilliant with Linus and Joseph fabulously displaying their comedy chops in the unlikely characters they are playing. Linus’ quiet and detached Gwyneth is the perfect folly for Joseph’s over-the-top Terry, with both holding their own as they reveal their own stories before coming together to create pure theatrical magic on stage. While the scripted moments were already great in themselves, it was the unplanned moments that added to the fun factor and played up to their strengths. From the unexpected responses or slow timing of their unsuspecting supporting cast or the fantastic ad-libs when the snowballs kept coming or the revolve went the wrong way, it created the sense that no two shows of Gwyneth Goes Skiing will ever be alike and that live, almost dangerous element added to the excitement.

RuPaul’s Drag Race fans will be equally gooped by the cameo appearance via video of the legendary Trixie Mattel, with pre-recorded voice segments for the other characters including the scene-stealing Deer of Deer Valley (spinoff when?). This play with music (not a musical) also features a small amount of musical moments, all created (and performed) by Leland. The biggest of which is the culminating number following Gwyneth’s now iconic “I wish you well” moment, further elevating the story or lack thereof.


Gwyneth Goes Skiing is another triumph for Awkward Productions. Their brand of trademark humour and wackiness has seen them garner a growing and devoted fanbase which this show should only continue to grow. While it might not be the classiest or most sophisticated show in the world, sometimes you just want a bit of silliness, and this show delivers that on every front. The ability to create a (mostly) cohesive show out of utter nonsense has left them with a show worthy of an Oscar or, at the very least, a Goop gift bag. Take my advice and get yourself down to the Pleasance Theatre (or where this show inevitably goes next as further life feels certain) and consciously couple with Gwyneth Goes Skiing. Just like Gwyneth (supposedly) crashing into Terry, it’s a crashing hit.

Gwyneth Goes Skiing plays at the Pleasance Theatre until 16th February. Tickets from


Photos by Jonny Ruff



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