Writers: Sikisa, Chloe Petts, Alison Spittle, Njambi McGrath, Leila Nayabi, Kemah Bob, and Jayde Adams
Like many of the performing arts, the pandemic has forced stand-up comedy online where, unable to be in the same room as their audience, comedians have adapted to the strange silence of delivering their sets via Zoom. On 5 February, seven female comedians joined forces to raise money for sexual and domestic violence charity Solace Women’s Aid in the fifth annual Stand Up 4 Women show reoriented for socially distanced performance.
Hosted by Sikisa live from a podium at the Phoenix Arts Club, the six performers appear via Zoom from their own homes enhanced by an invisible ‘front row’ with an invited Zoom audience of comedians (visible only to each other) providing a focus for the performer and adding a real-time laughter track that creates a bit of extra atmosphere. At home audience members can stream the show via the Phoenix Arts Club website where ticketholders retain access for 48 hours.
This year’s Stand Up 4 Woman has quite a rough and ready appeal, cutting to the homes of each performer and creating a far more relaxed environment with each set feeling more like an evolving conversation than a structured series of anecdotes that lead to a punchline. However, it sometimes means the performers ramble or go off on long tangents as ideas pop into their head.
Both Chloe Petts and Alison Spittle become noticeably sidetracked from their set as they chaotically refer to notebooks, Petts even admits to not remembering the end of her jokes having not performed them for so long. There is a good humoured and friendly feel to the show so it hardly matters; the group is just happy to be reunited for a good cause.
Some of the high points include Njambi McGrath’s political set about moving to the UK from Kenya and marrying an Englishman whose pet name is ‘The Coloniser’. In a fast-paced 15-minute performance, McGrath covers immigration, Boris Johnson as an archetype of the blue-eyed, blonde-haired master race and Madonna’s adoption habits.
Leila Nayabi takes an alternative approach, employing a comedy PowerPoint presentation about her brush with tabloid fame when a brief monologue for BBC Radio Wales comparing the Chancellor to Prince Charles stirs up a race row that is picked up by The Sun and other outlets. Later, Kemah Bob introduces the audience to her home with a Cribs-style tour of her living room before discussing her recent access to Freeview television and the confusing narratives of ‘poetic’ bank commercials.
The evening builds-up to Jayde Adams who delivers a confident set, eating blueberries and wondering how many people have fantasised about killing their partners in lockdown before moving on to genealogy, exercise regimes and a particular obsession with Greg Wallace. With Janine Haurouni unable to appear this 2-hour show is quite informal, often more of a chat than a formal set but a great platform for female comics raising money for an important cause.
Runs here until 5 March 2021