Susan Calman, Soho Theatre | Comedy reviews, news & interviews
Susan Calman, Soho Theatre
Scottish comic has a serious message among the jokes
Susan Calman's star has risen of late - the Glaswegian lawyer turned stand-up has been an Edinburgh Fringe favourite for some while now, but in the past two years she has become an established Radio 4 presence through the likes of The News Quiz, and has been seen acting on television on shows such as Sharon Horgan's comedy drama Dead Boss.
If I had one criticism of Calman's stand-up before, it was that the woman was hidden behind comedy that was accomplished but felt rather impersonal. That's not a cavil to be made with This Lady's Not For Turning Either, however; as its nod to Margaret Thatcher suggests, this is a show with an overtly political message, even if most of it is anything but.
Calman begins by telling us about her most memorable gig to date when, as a late replacement for his regular support act, she walked out on stage before a stadium filled with 10,000 screaming Russell Brand fans. It's a striking scene-setter, and she then tells us they weren't the only people she's ever disappointed; so were her parents when she told them she was gay. “But being a lawyer just about made up for being a lesbian.”
Most of the show is taken up with a list of reasons why nobody would want to marry Calman
She then talks about getting married earlier this year - or rather, getting civil partnered, because as lesbians she and her partner can't get married because there are those who believe “God would smite us all” if gays ever tied the knot in the same way as straight people. One of her many objections to getting civil partnered, she tells us, is that it sounds like something dodgy that happens to you on a Friday night out.
Most of the show is taken up with a list of reasons why nobody would want to marry Calman, not least of which is that she likes making lists. Along the way there is some wonderfully confessional comedy about her love of tweed, her ongoing argument with her wife about wanting to be president of the United States, making a ridiculously effete wedding list at John Lewis (mustard spoons, anyone?), the fact that she dresses up their cats - she's “the mad cat lady” in her street - and how much of her life she wastes on watching daytime TV. It's mostly hilarious, even if the section about her obsession with DCI Jane Tennison, not Helen Mirren, that would be weird and stalky, goes on far too long.
She describes some of the planning that went into her civil partnership ceremony, and neatly fillets the bizarre rules that apply to the ceremony, as the words “marry” or “marriage” cannot be mentioned. So instead of walking into the room with the Proclaimers' “Let's Get Married”, they chose "Darth Vader's Imperial March" from Star Wars instead.
The finale, a sort of call to arms, may strike some as incongruous or sentimental, but it's certainly an attention-grabber after a laugh-filled hour. And no, God did not smite anyone in the room.
- Susan Calman is at Soho Theatre until 24 November
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Popular science show with a few whizz-bangs
What makes a postmodern vent act tick?
Essayist and raconteur tells richly comic tales
Decent storyteller who needs more convincing material
Sitcom star returns to stand-up
Superb mix of personal and political material
Leicester kicks off the comedy festival season
Young Irish comic with a delightfully daft show
He's been Montgomery Burns and Derek Smalls. Stand back for his President Nixon
Riveting show that's a sort of state-of-the-nation address about Ireland
Edinburgh best newcomer award winner is an original talent
The rise of the managerial class is killing off mainstream BBC television comedy