Edinburgh Fringe 2021
Isabelle is a stand-up comedian who takes us through the four stages of being a comedian. Interspersed with this is her recounting of dealing with the grief of someone close, stand up is keeping her sane. She is a PA in the daytime, though this acting graduate has much to give and a tremendous spirit in which to give it. She manages to authentically weave her way through making her first comedy steps tentatively whilst also giving her a platform to pursue a career. The realization that it may have offered the chance for a cathartic exercise that could serve to support and comfort others comes later. She splits herself between the stand up routine and then a partly instructional commentary upon what she has been doing as we go along and get the family, the job and the career with grief in each and every part of the journey.
Beginning with a hesitant introduction where we have pauses and stuttering, Isabelle appears to be a very nervous performer. Until the lights change, and she steps away from the microphone and tells us how nerves affected her and how this is completely natural. And thus, we are given the format for the next 50 minutes or so. It’s effective.
Farah is funny. She is also a highly engaging performer. You can see where the acting training comes in and she is able to hold an audience and give a performance which enhances the mask of stand up routine. She reveals far more than humour.
It has been directed with a looseness that allows the narrative part of it to flow as we get the young performer, the keen and yet highly strung (out) PA, the mental health issues that inevitably follow not being able to deal with things and the potential burn out which comes from trying to be good at two things within a similar time frame. I do think it could have benefited from being more settled and the stumbles later in the narrative didn’t help but overall these were not major issues.
The material is strong and the revelation of the grief with which she is coping is drip fed to us. We are brought to the revelations by stealth rather than HERE IS THE DRAMA and what comes after was terrible. It has layers and depth which work really well. I particularly thought that the title of the piece and the semi colon explanation was sheer genius: just loved that…
Technically it had all that it required with the lighting aiding the distinction between the two arenas which was good.
This does touch upon highly emotive topics, and we all know that humour can be both the great healer and the temptation to fall into a black humour hole. Here it is deftly handled with a good hour-long confessional that leaves you more with hope in your spirit than doom.