Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Appropriate Adult is a show for grown-ups. This is not simply because Kiri Pritchard Mclean’s script is highly profane and occasionally features coarse expressions but rather that it is beautifully constructed and gradually builds to cover themes of class consciousness and social responsibility in a manner that is thought-provoking without ever detracting from the comedy.
Kiri Pritchard Mclean spends the opening part of the show describing the size of her boyfriend’s penis. As well as being hilarious it is a crafty way of introducing one of the themes of the show – that some people might feel Mclean is not suitable as a mentor for vulnerable children. Under the jokes there is a level of soul-searching and anger running through Appropriate Adult. Mclean explains that, one of a number of changes brought about by the end of an eight-year relationship was the decision to make a positive difference by helping people who have nothing rather than just hating those who have everything.
Throughout the autobiographical show the tone is self-deprecating with Mclean depicting herself as shallow and hungry for appreciation. Mclean is constantly editorialising her speeches; explaining that her decision to adopt a child was mainly due to a smug desire to be one-up on the other mums at the school gates by modestly acknowledging the nobility of adoption. Even the decision to help mentor a vulnerable teenager is down-played with Mclean suggesting her role amounted to little more than a weekly gossip with the child. This, as it later turns out, is one of a number of red herrings skillfully laid to lull the audience into a false sense of security.
The technique used by Mclean is to open with a serious topic and then gradually find the funny side. The tone throughout is bawdy with Mclean exploring near the knuckle subjects with embarrassing regularity.
Appropriate Adult is a wide –ranging show and Mclean expands her personal crisis to include also the angst experienced by other Millennials so as to explore why her generation has made the conscious choice to refrain from having children. As with much of Appropriate Adult there is a flash of anger as Mclean wishes the Baby Boomer generation had exercised similar restraint.
The title of the show has a double meaning. As the show progresses Mclean constantly returns to her discussions with the teenager she is mentoring. Gradually the audience becomes aware of hints and clues that the child may have entered into a relationship with an adult that is most definitely not appropriate. It is a stunning development allowing Mclean to darken the mood and shift from raucous, profane comedy towards a bittersweet conclusion.
There was a trend a few years ago for comedians to use harrowing personal experiences as a cheap way of gaining audience sympathy. Mclean does not take this approach; she is sufficiently self-aware to acknowledge that while some of the events described in the show were traumatic at the time the decisions taken were correct. Appropriate Adult is one of the best examples of autobiographical comedy exploring deeply personal topics without any self-pity and ensuring that the jokes flow thick and fast so that the audience can accept the bitterness as part of the comedy.
27 May 2018 | Image: Contributed