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Jessica Fostekew: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Julia Chamberlain

Jessica Fostekew is blessed with a compelling voice; you really would listen to her read the phonebook. But better than that, she’s put together a pleasurably nerdy, wordy show.

You would hope that a passion for words was at the foundation of most comedians’ work, but Fostekew makes a solidly entertaining hour from a love of browsing through dictionaries. The audience for this show should be self-selecting, with Radio 4-loving comedy fans featuring high among them, and it would be easy to see this piece translating to a series or at least a segment.

Fostekew has a natural exuberance and sense of play that made the audience fall in line with her ‘let’s pretend it’s the last day of school’ structure of the show, which cunningly permitted an episodic, lesson-by-lesson approach, rather than straining for a 50 minute narrative arc. 

She set the audience-class at ease, explaining people’s names, for real or in fun, probably the only person on the Fringe to get use the phrase ‘nominative determinism’ and make it accessible.  But this is not a lecture, it is a romp and she introduces different characters – various schoolteachers, some medieval Flemish feminists and Leigh the Builder to introduce the history and origin of various words and phrases.  (Hangover is particularly relevant, while in Edinburgh).

For my money, there was a little too much audience involvement in games – a lucky dip word game where a word is produced from a bag and an appropriate joke or explanation is offered didn’t bring much to the party – she had after all prepared the lucky dip herself, so there wasn’t going to be anything too taxing in there, and she shows a penchant for the simply rude, ever a security blanket for a comedy performer.

Given the research and intelligence she brought to the show, she could have trusted the audience to follow her into more uncharted territory than old words for genitalia. However, the show rattles along, she’s a charming and sly operator, using some excellent callbacks  throughout the piece. 

She informed, educated and entertained, a one-woman BBC, and left us wanting more, but in a good way. 

Review date: 8 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon

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