Katherine Ryan: Glitter Room | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Brighton Dome

Katherine Ryan: Glitter Room

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Brighton Dome

The Glitter Room is the bedroom of Katherine Ryan’s eight-year-old daughter Violet, which has been fully decked out in the twinkly sparkles the youngster wanted, despite the protests of the builders who – reluctantly – made it happen.

For the room is a manifestation of the go-it-alone swagger the comedian exudes so easily, and has clearly passed down to her child.

Those same builders, after hearing Ryan’s decorative plans for the house, tell her bluntly: ‘You’ll never get a man to stay here’ –  overlooking the fact that’s the last thing she wants. The last relationship broke down because her boyfriends couldn’t come to terms with the fact she didn’t need him, he was just a luxury item.

Now she is ensconced in her London home, bought from the fruits of her own considerable labours – a proud testament to her autonomy. She don’t need a man for this, it’s her and Violet against the world.

Crack out the Beyonce album for this Independent Woman, one of the Single Ladies. But while words like ‘empowerment’ stick easily to Ryan, she wears it lightly. Social points are scored with strong jokes from her own life; she’s not just bolting on punchlines as sops to politicised rants. She’s aware that she’s a flawed role model, but cuts thought so much gender-based hypocrisy to live life on her own terms. ‘I’m not playing by your rules’ is a recurring mantra.

Were she a lone father, the Canadian argues, society would see her as heroic. Since she’s a single mother, she gets all the unfair stigma that gets clumped around that now-loaded phrase. 

But motherhood is paramount to her, and Ryan’s approach to parenting is the spine that runs through the show. Violet, being British, is depicted as some demanding pint-sized Dowager Countess, proper and imperious, seeing straight  through any of her mother’s pretensions.

The comedian now finds herself living among the yummy mummies of chichi North London, and sneers at the complicit, unadventurous middle-classes she sees at the school gates. Baby machine Julie personifies all that’s wrong with a woman accepting servile domesticity, and bears the brunt of some brutal jibes. 

But for the most part Ryan’s shtick has evolved from the waspish put-down to a more positive celebration of her life.  A fierce coda about the gilded cage Melania Trump now finds herself in is as tart and hard-hitting as anything Ryan’s comedy hero, Joan Rivers, could come up with; but it’s one short routine, not the defining tone of the hour.

Instead she carefully rations her searing savagery to call bullshit on patriarchal hangovers and fake concepts like the ‘revenge body’ heaping more pressure on women. 

She doesn’t take any nonsense, wherever she finds it. You absolutely believe that she’s the sort of person to heckle the Broadway musical Hamilton, after the lead character Weinsteined a girl who came to his house seeking help. (And as an aside, Ryan also sings and raps samples from the show for the benefit of those who can’t get tickets)

The more socially pertinent routines sit alongside more straightforward anecdotes, such as stalking Anna Kendrick, both accidentally and on purpose, or a weird conversation with her hippy Uber driver that got creepy at the journey’s end.

All this is delivered with an innate ease that makes everyone want her as a friend. Even the Q&A she ends on – a device that’s so often depressingly anticlimactic after comedy shows – yields a revealing story about Violet’s birth that’s full of cheery candour, spontaneously funny and true. It also elicited an A-grade heckle about Ryan’s eye-catching Gucci trousers, pink and sparkly and with a huge frill down each seam. Apparently some men make a point of telling her they hate the style. You can only imagine just how many fucks she gives about that.

For if nothing else, owning your own choices is the takeout message of this cheerful, positive and wonderfully entertaining hour. (And it is an hour, or thereabouts; Ryan runs a tight show, knowing what a mistake it is to get between the English and a post-show pint)

The only real down point was her Canadian friend, Andrew Johnson, in support who confused camp with funny, assuming a sarcastic tone would be enough. He swung it round in the end, with an eye-opening observation on gay porn categories, but for most of the routine, his simplistic material was a struggle, unworthy of such a great main attraction. For Ryan brings glitter to any room.

Review date: 3 Nov 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Dome

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