Kitty Flanagan: A Festival Of Me
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2007
Standup comedy that's funny, a darkly comic short film that's won awards at film festivals around the world plus a rousing anthem about underpants. No earnest themes or concepts here, just a laugh out loud hour that flies by.
Kitty Flanagan may be a quietly accomplished stand-up, but the highlight of her 2007 show is in an entirely different media altogether.
To the almost tangible disappointment of the audience, she announces that she’ll be opening with a short film. The fear is that this is mere filler to extend a simple stand-up set to fill the customary hour.
But Dating Ray Fenwick is a poignant tragicomic gem, full of bittersweet humour as well as laugh-aloud scenes. It’s none of your homemade low-tech stuff either, having been properly produced by Steve Coogan and Henry Normal’s company, Baby Cow.
It stars Nighty Night’s Julia Davis as a woman still single in her late thirties, much to the chagrin of her interfering mother – brilliantly portrayed Georgie Glen – for whom being alone is her worst nightmare. Stand-up Tim Vine also makes an appearance as Davis’s rollerskating date.
Dating Ray Fenwick’s already been screened to some acclaim at the London Film Festival, but was apparently deemed not weighty enough for Edinburgh. The film festival’s loss is the Fringe’s gain.
Being single and childless in your late thirties is something of a theme for Flanagan, that being her status, too. She’s not bitter about it, but does ponder aloud in charmingly self-effacing why this might be.
She’s certainly intolerant of children, displaying a deliciously mean streak when it comes to her ideas of parenting. Modern mums and dads indulge their precious youngsters far too much for her liking. In fact, it’s not just children she’s intolerant of, but whiners everywhere.
She attributes much of her own failings down to a tendency to over-analyse everything – a useful trait in a comedian, if not in civilian life – which she puts down to an evocatively-recalled incident from her childhood, when she was humiliated by a grown-up. To this day she confesses not to be good in stressful situations.
Her deceptively smart stand-up certainly doesn’t invite drama. It’s softly told with disarming modesty, so you like her even if some of her material doesn’t paint her that way. The flip side, however, is that the delivery lacks the passion to really move an audience.
Alongside film and stand-up, the final strand in Flanagan’s Festival Of Me is a song, a lightweight number about the increasing number celebrities who are photographed knickerless (or who ‘have their flaps papped’ as she wittily calls it). It’s a perfunctory end piece, with silly slides to illustrate it, but musical comedy isn’t really her forte. Film, on the other hand, very much could be.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett