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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Rosie Holt – That’s Politainment

Rosie Holt

Genre: Character Stand up, Comedy, Political, Satire

Venue: The Pleasance


Low Down

Rosie Holt critiques the media and the political establishment in her hour long satirical comedy show. She questions especially the increasing blurring of lines between media and politics, and highlights the lack of scrutiny from the media. Holt’s work is thought-provoking satirical theatre for those versed in current affairs.


Writing a review for Rosie Holt’s current show, “That’s Politainment,” is somewhat difficult, as it is challenging to describe what kind of show it actually is. Now, if I were to talk to my 90-year-old German grandmother, this would be easy: ‘Rosie Holt ist Kabarettistin.’ Holt belongs to a small but important group of seasoned British satirists who currently work in a style similar to that which evolved in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. That this style is so desperately needed right now should give us cause for concern.

Holt presents us with three of her characters: Rosie Holt – The Left-Wing Comedian, Harriet Langley Swindon – The Right-Wing Presenter, and probably the most famous of all, Rosie Holt – The Conservative MP, whom we have seen so much of online over the last years. And yes, despite being utterly appalling, people actually think she is real. Britannia, quo vadis?

The show is opened and ‘hosted’ by Holt’s presenter character, ‘Harriet Langley Swindon.’ It is calculatedly painful to watch. The satire that drips from every word she utters is thick and sticky, like crude oil. It takes a lot of intelligence to play a bimbo this convincingly. Holt makes us uncomfortable. In a very surreptitious way, she criticises a media landscape that is fickle and shallow but lapped up by millions, including some in the auditorium. For a few, this is clearly too close to the bone. As a result, the laughs are stifled, if they come at all.

A few jibes on current affairs follow, which are sadly lost on some of the younger members of the audience. Gen Z may not be as aware as they think they are. The references to nonsensical ‘common sense’ go right over their heads. It’s a shame; these are very clever and showcase Holt’s true skill as a satirist.

With a quick change of a jacket, we now have Rosie Holt – The Conservative MP taking centre stage. This fictional character is a culmination of many dreadful things British MPs have actually said and done, neatly packed into purposely bad reworkings of old but quite decent jokes. Awkward silences and terrible segues really drive home how painfully unaware and self-righteous this character is. It makes us feel awful as we realise the morass that is current politics is much, much worse than we thought. We wince and flinch, and occasionally we laugh out of embarrassment. Holt holds a mirror up to us, but we don’t notice it’s a mirror until it’s too late. We run right into it and make our noses bleed. We have to ask ourselves: how could we let it come to this?

Holt provides a kind of answer with her next character: Rosie Holt – The Left-Wing Comedian. This character is good, very good indeed. I can easily think of a handful of comedians of any gender who could have served as a study for this character. Holt’s acting skills are superb and sadly hidden in her Conservative characters. No, that capital ‘C’ is not a typo. In this routine, Holt makes some very valid points on accountability. She is blunt, she is bold, and also very accurate in her assessment. There is clearly a very sharp mind at work here, and it is most attractive.

Holt finishes with a dig at herself. She is of course aware that the two most successful characters in her oeuvre are the two right-wingers. There are, of course, similarities, although they are clearly informed by two completely different sets of circumstances. Or aren’t they? Have we now reached an environment where the lines between media and politics are blurred? Holt answers this question in a very visual way that leaves no one in doubt. That’s Politainment.

There are so many layers to Holt’s work that a Dobos Torte would look positively simple next to it. Despite the Strong Language warning and the 16+ age guideline, I can’t recall any foul words. This is extremely clever theatre and will be enjoyable for those with a good grasp of current affairs from the last few months. This is not a thigh-slapping comedy show full of puns and crude jokes. This is highly intelligent satirical theatre for an audience that likes to think first and laugh second.