Comedy writer, poet and performer Martha MacDonald has a very noisy head… and an excruciatingly quiet tortoise. Unwittingly, this aforementioned tortoise has become the unlikely muse of her debut one-woman comedy show ‘SHELL’ coming to the Jersey Arts Centre this month.
For one night only on 11 June at 8pm, SHELL is set to be a whirligig of stand-up comedy, oversharing, poetry and heavily tortoise-themed therapy.
When Martha inherited this hibernating reptile from her grandparents, he came with a lot of baggage. For a creature that more greatly resembles an average sized boulder than a pet; a creature who is 40% dandelions and 60% the unresolved burdens of familial guilt and responsibility – he certainly lives rent-free in Martha’s head (and garden) 100% of the time.
So, why not make a comedy show about it? Martha has been commissioned by the Jersey Arts Centre to take up residence in the theatre for a week to workshop and stage her first comedy show which she hopes to eventually take to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
SHELL will take a deep dive into Martha’s own anxieties as she tries to unpack her bizarre fixation and fascination with tortoises. An off-beat coming of age story, Martha’s show will explore her slightly unconventional upbringing, ghosts, mortality and panic attacks – in her characteristically wry and witty style.
Now working as a freelance writer, Martha has a background in playwriting and journalism. She began her comedy career in 2020 when she started posting funny poetry on her popular social media channel ‘Martha Writes’. Her poetry videos have racked up tens of thousands of likes and views on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter and take aim at everything from adult acne to the latest big news story and even girlboss culture.
Whilst Martha has been gigging locally, performing short comedy-poetry mashup sets, SHELL marks her first foray into long-form comedy.
Speaking about her show, Martha said: “Whilst most people would bury their weird obsessions deep inside themselves or save it for their therapist, for a comedian like me, it’s absolute gold dust! I’ve been wanting to make this show for a really long time so when the Arts Centre offered me this residency, I was over the moon.
“It’s a great testament to the arts organisations in the island that they’re willing to invest in projects like this. Not many writers can say that they had a vague idea about making a show that’s all about tortoises and were instantly met with this level of support, so I’m really grateful for that.
“Making the leap to a full hour show definitely feels like a baptism of fire, but I thought to myself ‘if I don’t do this now, I may never get the chance’ so I put my (non-tortoise related) fears on the backburner and pushed myself to seize the opportunity.”