Susan Calman, Soho Theatre | reviews, news & interviews
Susan Calman, Soho Theatre
Susan Calman, Soho Theatre
Feelgood stand-up with a political punch
Susan Calman's latest show has a delightfully silly title – Calman Before the Storm – which neatly doesn't pin her down to any particular theme but instead allows her to riff on a wide range of subjects. It makes for a pleasing hour of feelgood comedy.
This show started life at the Edinburgh Fringe earlier this year, while the Rio Olympics were taking place; but Calman wasn't worried that she might lose potential audiences. She knows her demographic: “Oh, I’d love to go see Susan, but no… the taekwondo is on!”
Calman infuses the hour with some terrifically sharp political comedy
People make all sort of assumptions about her, Calman says, now that, after 10 years in comedy, she finds herself unexpectedly a Radio 4 regular. Most of the assumptions they make are about her height, her politics, her nationality and her sexuality, and she allots each a section to address.
She gives a biscuit-based explanation to place herself on the social scale – when she was growing up, she tells us proudly, her family had a biscuit tin filled with mint Viscounts. There's posh. And she playfully deals with the lesbians-all-love-cats trope by admitting that she and her wife are the weirdos with cats on her street that parents tell their children to avoid.
Expounding on coming from north of the Border, Calman makes some shocking revelations about all the Scottish products she really doesn't like, and then involves the audience in a daft parlour game, which on the night I saw the show came up with some gems as the audience shouted out names for comparison. Does she sound more or less Scottish than, say, William Wallace, as performed by Mel Gibson in Braveheart, or Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, whom many people say she looks like?
But it's not all just lighthearted fun; Calman infuses the hour with some terrifically sharp political comedy, too, about Donald Trump, Brexit, homophobia, not being left-wing enough, pensions and the continuing paucity of female talent allowed on television comedy panel shows. And after the US presidential election result you can probably expect a lot more on the next resident of the White House and his homophobic Vice President.
Calman teases with her personal revelations, as some sound true while others are clearly fantastical; but the political material, while delivered with a knowing wink and an air of insouciance, comes with a dose of steely conviction. It all adds up to an hour that goes by far too quickly.
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