ComedyNorth WestReview

Rachel Fairburn: Showgirl- The Opera House, Manchester

Reviewer: David Cunningham

Rachel Fairburn is a Mancunian and, opening her Showgirl tour in her hometown, is not shy about promoting the fact. Her introductory ‘getting to know you’ chat with the audience is littered with local reference points. Hard to say how the approach might play in other venues on the tour but her description of the nearby Yuppie Theme Park Spinningfields as full of punters in flammable leisurewear is bang on.

Fairburn is down to earth (or, as she puts it, can’t be arsed) making her initial appearance in dressing gown and hair curlers. For the main part of the show, she wears an eye-popping Abba-style sparkly jumpsuit (‘’£12.99 from Bury market’’) complete with tasseled flared pants to reflect the ‘showgirl’ theme of the evening.

The theme, she explains, comes from having to respond so frequently to the question of how someone of her gender and social class dared to enter showbiz, specifically, comedy. There is a degree of anger and of truth in Fairburn’s presentation – she learnt the basics of her craft in a course, funded by the then-Labour government, for socially deprived areas. Fairburn argues such a progressive approach runs contrary to the rarely articulated, but sincerely felt, view that the working class are not suited to creative activities and would be better off being trained to forage for fried food or to use contraception.

Fairburn does not spare her fellow artists from criticism arguing many are astonished to find a member of the working class, such as herself, in showbiz as they thought the door had been closed after Micky Flanagan. Swearing by female performers, she opines, is tolerated only if the comedian in question is Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

This is not to say Showgirl is a diatribe. There is a dark elegance to Fairburn’s wordplay. She looks back nostalgically to days when it was considered inappropriate to openly acknowledge mental health issues, when someone sitting moodily alone in a pub would generate the observation ‘’Bet he likes The Smiths’’.

The extremes of the anxious middle classes are common targets. Children with names that sound like air fresheners or mild sexual injuries. Told of someone seeking eco-friendly sex toys Fairburn simply looks at her fingers. Fairburn perceives air fryers as being treated as fetish objects and proof of an empty life.

Fairburn is something of a misanthrope listing her reasons for not wanting children and longing for the days of Covid-lockdowns when she had a perfect excuse to decline invitations to socialise. She is particularly annoyed by a guest who left a mess in her flat and did not even have the decency to take her own life.

Showgirl reaches a conclusion at the mid-point with the rest of the show being more examples to reinforce Fairburn’s views on social class and gender. It remains, however, a fine example of using stinging humour to make a strong social point.

9th September 2023 and touring until 26th November 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Stinging humour, strong point

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The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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