Reviewer: Simon Topping
Sorry, we are told. Kate Smurthwaite cannot be with us tonight but we can bring you a comic from an underrepresented minority group in stand-up comedy; a white, well-off, middle-class man called Milo Standards.
Standards (Smurthwaite’s alter-ego) enters the room, brimming with confidence and disdain. He is an over privileged, ex-public school boy and misogynist. The audience is in for an interesting night.
Smartly suited and flat capped, Standards (a Latin rapper and comedian of sorts) begins to regale us with his ideology on life. He is aggressively heterosexual and avoids emotional connections at all costs. Like a modern day Bernard Manning, his views are unpalatable to the Brighton Fringe audience and his diatribes make us feel increasingly uncomfortable. “I support the sex industry workers”, he says, in what we think is lapsed moment of solidarity to women. “Financially”, he goes on; and normal service is resumed.
Smurthwaite is exploring complex issues of gender in comedy in an experimental way. She plays a male character well and is a confident performer, with a good turn of phrase. The most engaging sections of the show are about the magic circle and the appallingly sexist jokes which continue to proliferate on the club scene, which is shocking, but not surprising, to hear. A surreal part of the piece has the 46-year-old sound man(co-star) dressed up as a whisky drinking, pipe smoking, foetus, arguing with Standards about who controls the rights to life of unborn babies.
The show ends up being more commentary than comedy (punctuated with nervous laughter and some genuinely funny moments). It is challenging to watch but a necessary conversation to be having within the industry.
If it is Smurthwaites’ intention for us to go away slightly shell-shocked, better informed and provoking discussion, she has achieved her goal.
Runs 27 & 28 May 2017 at The Warren Theatre Box | Image: Contributed
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