EDINBURGH FRINGE 2017: TIFF STEVENSON / JARLATH REGAN / URZILA CARLSON The politics of beauty, the comedy of organ donation and big laughs from the southern hemisphere
Tiff Stevenson ★★★★
“I identify as a 10!” Tiff Stevenson tells us in Bombshell. It’s a strong opener, particularly as she follows with: “And if you don’t agree you’re beauty-phobic.” It’s not to boast, though, more marking her territory in a show about the shifting sands of modern sexual politics. Why should women identify with a male view of the world?
She playfully sets up the seeming incongruity of loving to dress in leopardskin while being able to talk about the semiotics of feminism - the two aren't mutually exclusive, after all, and how you see yourself is not necessarily how others perceive you, so why worry what they think?
Stevenson goes on to talk about Tinder, the politics of beauty products and about having moved up the social scale - she now drinks in bars where cocktails are served in jam jars, she says.
There’s polemic and passion in this hour but none of it is heavy-going, and there’s lots of lighter fare. She talks about the pleasure of being in Edinburgh with her Scottish boyfriend in tow, and even when referencing the recent terror attacks in London, where she lives, she turns it into a hilarious dissection of the limits of liberal attitudes when confronted with danger. A fine hour.
- Tiff Stevenson at Gilded Baloon until 27 August
Jarlath Regan ★★★★
Jarlath Regan starts his show Organ Freeman by doing some conversational banter with the audience, about who is married, how long they have been together and how many children they have. So far, so everyday comedy material, but there’s a purpose, as it neatly folds into the story he has to tell.
He tells us that earlier this year he donated a kidney to his older brother, who is the family favourite. There are many funny tales about their childhood, and then the extensive tests Regan had to undergo - the difference in attitudes to alcohol on either side of the Atlantic are particularly pertinent here, and Regan mines every bit of comedy from them.
But what unfolds is a thrilling family drama as Regan details why there were wider issues to discuss with his wife before going ahead with the donation. And when he explains exactly why it might be a bigger risk for his family than his brother’s, the intake of breath in the room is audible. He doesn't spare himself, either, being hilariously honest about his motivations in what would appear to be an entirely generous act of brotherly love.
Regan is an expert storyteller and this is a beautifully constructed show that I could have happily listened to for twice its length.
- Jarlath Regan at the Tron until 27 August
Urzila Carlson ★★★
First Edition is the Fringe debut of the South African-born, New Zealand-based comic, who won the Director’s Choice award at Sydney Comedy Festival earlier this year. Carlson has a smiley, bouncy presentational style, but don’t be deceived - she likes a bit of filth in her comedy.
She has great onstage warmth, and while some her subject matter - people who annoy her, vegetarians and the frustrations of air travel - are everyday matters, her gags are told with such vim that she wins you over. She deals with her size with some nicely subtle lines - she’s not a sporty person, she confides - and thanks Europeans for helping the starving in Africa. “You sent food. We got it.”
There’s a handbrake turn late in the set as she discusses a personal loss which, though heartfelt, feels like it should be in another show. But her no-holds-barred style, when applied to subjects such as her intolerance of the gluten-intolerant or fussy eaters, works a treat.
- Urzila Carlson at Assembly George Square until 27 August