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Aisling Bea: C'est La Bea

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

So You Think You’re Funny? is Edinburgh’s competition for the newest of the new, so it usually takes several years between a comedian winning the title, and making their solo debut. Ivo Graham, for example, won in 2009 and has his first full show this year.

But not only has Aisling Bea come back to the Fringe with an hour’s worth of material just 12 months after wowing judges with seven minutes; she’s done so with a highly accomplished show of free- and fast-flowing stand-up that never flags for a minute. There’s a confidence and an energy – not to mention raw talent – that much older hands would envy.

Her material is primarily about growing up in rural Ireland, though it goes on many diversions. One cornerstone routine is about the big night out at the only nightclub for 20 miles. It’s only as I write that, that I realise what a over-done, almost hack, topic that could have been. But at the time, Bea tells it from such an unusual standpoint, and with such evocative description, that she makes it deliciously fresh.

She also conjures up the awkward talent shows of her childhood – stand-up clearly wasn’t included amid the more esoteric abilities else Bea would have walked it – and the brutality of living on a farm. But she found her escape through formulaic hip-hop movies.

Such rural isolation, she says, made her keen to talk to others whenever she got the chance, and that enthusiasm to fill the air with conversation makes her performance so lively and joyous. She delivers breathlessly, so pacy it seems as if she’s gabbling her way through an episode of Just A Minute, trying to speak without hesitation or repetition. Deviation is more of a pitfall, though, as she goes on wild digressions, both planned and demonstrating a quick mind for ad-libbing – stumbling on the South African in the front row led to comments about District 9 that couldn’t have been planned.

Little characters populate the narrative, but with a light touch, with the Australian Zumba instructor being a particular favourite. After all, Bea’s a trained actress, as she never tires of telling us, self-deprecatingly describing how futile those two years were. In fact, they’re standing her in amazing stead now.

There’s occasionally a routine with a bit of an attitude, such as her mockery of the toxic self-doubt women’s magazines drip-feed into their readers’ brains, but sharing opinions is not the essence of show that’s going for a broad, mainstream appeal. And who better to deliver that than this born comedian.

Review date: 10 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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