Hils Barker: In the Wrong Place
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2006
A stand-up show about the alienation we all feel at some point, whether it's in our personal life, politically, geographically or mentally. Join Hils and some fictional accomplices on a voyage of inquiry and confusion. Why are we here, and where are our drinks?
Hils Barker is an appealing stage presence, a chipper middle-class girl, perhaps a bit to eager to please, but full of friendly energy. She knows how to write a gag, too, as she quickly demonstrates with a few pithy slogans for various tourist boards or for Radio 4 all mocking but affectionate.
But despite some lovely moments, her debut hour doesn't quite hold together as a show, sagging in momentum towards the middle as the gag rate starts falling away. You'll be smiling throughout, Barker will make sure of that, but belly laughs are rare.
The idea, supposedly, behind the show is the sense of alienation Barker feels. That might appear odd because she seems so resolutely Middle England that she ought to be thatched. But, she tells us, she's not as posh as her accent, nor does she have the tastes she thinks a 29-year-old woman should have, especially in her soft spot for hoedown music. The fact that she's had a transient life over the last year, moving from address to address since a relationship break-up only adds to the sense of not fitting in.
There's a certain irony, then, that most of her material doesn't fit in with this central idea. Wrong Place is as much about alienation as it is about the Kaiser Chiefs, Nectar cards or chic lit all topics she talks about, and despises.
She's well read, a fact which she proudly wears on her sleeve. She is just as likely to namecheck Noam Chomsky as she is Take A Break magazine in fact, they both get a mention in the same sentence. But flaunting her highbrow reference points, without particular reason, brings her dangerously close to smug.
The show is punctuated with a couple of musical interludes to maintain the breezy mood Barker sets up, and her charm sees her through as her train of thought and writing become fuzzier towards the show's end. It's enjoyable, but slight, and her best material suggests she's capable of a much more solidly strong show than this.
Phil - 26/08/2006
I fell in love with her a bit. Good company and some laughs.
Steve - 15/08/2006
I thought the show was great. I saw her perform back in October at a club where I live, and came to see her on the strength of it, and wasn't disappointed. She's definitely improved since I last saw her, it wasn't a complete gag fest, but it was well written and performed, and kept me entertained for an hour. Good work Hils.
Renton - 14/08/2006
Sorry - I wasn't at all impressed. If I'd wanted a younger version of Sandi Toksvig, I'd have asked for one.