Reviewer: Charlotte Broadbent
Sandi Toksvig has been in the business of making us laugh for 35 years. She’s a comedian, writer, presenter, producer and soon to be host of QI. The purpose of this tour, however, is not simply to entertain. Last year Toksvig co-founded a new political party, The Women’s Equality Party, the UK’s fastest growing political organisation. Suddenly, we’re here on business. The name of this organisation, Toksvig cheerfully announces, was chosen as they didn’t want there to be any surprises later on as to what their purpose is.
They firmly believe that when women are being used to their full potential in every aspect of life, everyone benefits. Toksvig also doesn’t mince her words when detailing the intentions for this tour. Of course, they hope to raise awareness for their organisation but they also need money. There’s merchandise for sale and volunteers helping you sign up as a member if you feel so inclined. Toksvig reveals that just to have your name appear on a ballot will cost £20,000, highlighting just why politics has always been, and continues to be a rich boy’s game.
A night of political fundraising may seem a far cry from the what people may have expected when coming to the theatre for an evening with such a renowned personality; yet if there’s anyone who is able to combine an evening of comedy, history, politics, feminism and funny stories it is Sandi Toksvig.
In the first half Toksvig bounds onto the stage looking refreshingly un-showbiz in a comfy jumper and a big smile. She’s no stranger to the one-woman-show and warmly greets the crowd before diving straight into some of the quirks in life that have been making her giggle of late. The whole evening is a beautiful balance of wit and humour on all manner of subjects but always returning to politics and feminism. For example, Toksvig imagines how much more entertaining sports would if only the incompetent were allowed to partake.
She looks back through history to find some of the more amusing and absurd tales, such as the English man who won an Olympic gold medal for tennis in a match where he borrowed someone else’s racket and wore a suit throughout the game. She then talks of more recent sporting absurdities. She informs us that the Australian women’s basketball team, who have won silver medals in the past three Olympics, must travel in economy while the male team, who have yet to win anything, all travel in business class. She then goes on to give some disturbing statistics about women in modern sport. To bring us back from this moment of horror Toksvig invites three members of the audience onto the stage for a game of Wiff Waff. This structure of using an obscure and amusing example, then making it pertinent to her cause is one Toksvig executesflawlessly and ensures the message is never preached but undeniably demonstrated.
In the second half, Toksvig invites the audience to join in a quiz, a feature audience goers may recognise from her previous one-woman-shows. She then goes on to poke fun at some of the absurdly sexist adverts used through the 1940s and 50s. Though, things take a more sinister turn when she reveals some adverts used in December of 2015. The second half includes many more of these preposterous stories and statistics about women’s health, rights and pay which provokes reactions that make people laugh with shock, groan with horror and eventually hold their head in their hands with despair.
Her bright and optimistic attitude convinces you that something can and must be done. She then introduces two members of the local constituent of the WEP (Women’s Equality Party) who let the audience know how they can get involved. At the end of the show, Toksvig includes a Q and A session in which she makes it abundantly clear that the questions do not have to be centred on politics. She ends the show in a charmingly daft and upbeat way, by inviting the audience to join her in conducting the final bars of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Those hoping for a jolly night out with a national treasure will certainly not be disappointed; however, do be prepared to have your political fibres twanged. Toksvig makes many compelling arguments and clearly has such faith in her cause. Though, if you just want to ask her about Who’s Line is it Anyway, that’s okay too.
Reviewed on 9March 2016 then touring | Image: Contributed