Gwyneth Goes Skiing at The Pleasance review: arch, sarky and OTT take on Paltrow's run in on the slopes

Linus Karp as Gwyneth (Jonny Ruff)
Linus Karp as Gwyneth (Jonny Ruff)

There are enough belly laughs in this queer comedy about Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous 2016 ski accident to fill a joyful 60 minutes. Unfortunately, this show lasts two hours.

An arch, sarky, wilfully OTT entertainment, with copious references to conscious uncoupling and vagina candles, the show went viral across world media before its short pre-Christmas run. Now revived in the real world, it probably works best if you’re piste. Sorry, if they can do bad jokes, so can I.

Co-creators and performers Linus Karp and Joseph Martin mercilessly mock the vainglorious Goop founder and her absurd nemesis, retired optometrist Dr Terry Sanderson, who unsuccessfully sued her in 2023, seven years after a collision on the Utah slopes. There’s a talking deer, hand puppets, lots of audience participation and a taped appearance by Drag Race winner Trixie Mattel as Gwynnie’s mum, Blythe Danner. The meagre songs are mostly lip-synched.

Still, the material is golden. At the trial Sanderson claimed he’d suffered life-changing injuries but was shown in his own Facebook posts to have travelled wildly and adventurously after the disputed crash. The soignee, turtleneck-clad Gwyneth complained she’d lost “half a day’s skiing” and was fangirled relentlessly by Martin’s own lawyer (played here, aptly, as a Muppet).

Karp, with a blonde wig and a quietly patronising manner, is Paltrow. She reminds us she’s an Oscar-winner and a Goop billionaire who was once married to Coldplay’s Chris Martin, “the colour beige personified”. She holds conversations with her daughter Apple, represented by an actual apple. There’s a running gag about people misremembering the superhero saga she was in.

Linus Karp as Gwyneth Paltrow (Jonny Ruff)
Linus Karp as Gwyneth Paltrow (Jonny Ruff)

Where Karp is mutedly superior, Martin – Joseph, not Chris – is all thwarted bombast. His artificially grizzled Dr Terry rages that people don’t know the difference between optometrists and opticians, and reverts regularly to the punchline: “I didn’t see THAT coming.” Audience members are drafted in to play Terry’s soon-to-be-ex girlfriend, and Gwyneth’s future husband, Brad Falchuk. All of us get to vote on whether Gwyneth is Gwinnocent or Gwuilty.

It's loose, deliberately half-arsed, cabaret-style stuff, which means that when the stage revolve turns in the wrong direction it doesn’t matter. “Oh, we’re skiing backwards today,” simpers Karp, with an eye-roll. When it works it’s very funny, and it’s hard to get too irate at a show that mounts an onstage blizzard with confetti and a desk fan, and which invites us to pelt Sanderson with snowballs.

But there are too many moments when the two performers and their long-suffering stage manager seem to be marking time, too much reliance on the indulgence of the “girls, gays and theys” at whom the show is vaguely aimed. “I wish you well,” Gwyneth murmured to Sanderson after the trial. I wish Karp and Martin had brought in an outside eye to make this show leaner and meaner.

Pleasance Theatre, to 16 Feb; tickets at