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FringeReview UK 2018

Sara Pascoe: Lads Lads Lads

Sara Pascoe

Genre: Comedy, Solo Show, Stand-Up

Venue: Brighton Dome


Low Down

“From spiritual retreat, cry breaks, life drawing classes and football matches. She has been drunk and lonely everywhere”.


Keen to see this well respected political (vegan) feminist comedian and writer (Animal), I wanted to know whether Pascoe fumbles or flourishes in this male-heavy stand up comedy scene.

Does she take herself as a feminist seriously, or does she hide, disempowered, in a cute caricature of herself? Live comedy that pleases rather than challenges can emotionally anaesthetise both the audience and the performer. I was interested in whether Pascoe could use this medium for authentic political comment.

It became quickly apparent that Pascoe as well as being naturally funny with a gift for underplayed humour bombs, is highly intelligent and self aware. She knows the female patterns imprinted into us, even of Eat Pray Love (a new unwanted cliché that Elizabeth Gilbert herself never intended). This is a new wave of feminism that exposes the sinister vacuousness of pretty, slim-waisted fairy tale princesses. Disney never really gave us a chance as we grew up hopeful and romantic and, dare I say it, a little bit blinkered about the scope and possibility of men.

Despite being of an obvious cliché age and relationship status to question her life Pascoe is one smartly-stepped moment ahead of us: 

“This time I was in Costa Rica. I’d gone there for a spiritual yoga retreat after a break up, the clichéd get away for someone who is middle class and heartbroken when the wine has stopped working.”

Although she doesn’t quite hit her stride until the second half, Pascoe has the audience in full command within the first five minutes. Teetering Bambi-like across the stage, nervously and sparkly, we already love her as she, for a few seconds, fools us by sort of playing a cutesy dipsy lovable blonde. But then she sharpens into focus. And then she talks about incest. “Its not really that bad is it? If I had a hunky brother called Steven…well….it might be quite nice really”. Now we are taken into an edginess where we are a little bit uncomfortable, shifting in our seats, smile a little frozen….nervous laughs… far will she take this? But she doesn’t push boundaries for cheap laughs; there is an authentic voice in her dialogue, real questions and life-lived wobbles. Earnest exploration and also a sense of the wider community, not just her own struggles. 

Pascoe kept the attention of a chatty and fairly full Dome audience deftly and consistently, the pace neither hurried nor dragged, covering a solid and brilliantly written range of material.

My companions felt her honest reflections were refreshing and universal, “a perfect night out with your closest girlfriends”. Pascoe felt like one of us by the end of the evening –  one of your friends who shares that little bit too much, but makes you laugh until your belly aches and in her honesty makes you admit things too, and perhaps even take yourself a little less seriously. 

As writer and an actor, Pascoe brings theatricality with purpose to her work. There’s an important feminist undercurrent to her show and she is part of a wider dialogue where society is being encouraged to move forwards and talk abut sex and bodies and attraction and vulnerability without shame. She meets head on with a critical comment of her as a performer as too “tampony” and completely dives into this without resentment but reclaims back her femininity from this overtly misogynist throwaway comment. 

She said the best thing about being a comedian is that you get to share your darkest, most shameful thoughts and experiences but also make people laugh. Philosophical and earnest, Pascoe asks us (paraphrased), what if we were all just a bit kinder to each other, wouldn’t that be so nice? Pascoe’s vulnerability and honesty makes the world feel a little bit better; as in her willingness to be that voice, we are all released in the lovely ridiculousness of it all.