Stella Graham

Stella Graham

Half English, half-Sri Lankan comic who started comedy in New Zealand in 2008, before returning to the UK in 2012. Nominated for best newcomer at the 2009 New Zealand Comedy Guild Awards.
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Stella Graham – Dragon

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Having hit her early 40s, Stella Graham worries that she's turning into her mother, the 'dragon' of her show title, an intimidating, indomitable woman who raised nine children and ran eight shops.

Sensitivity and delicacy were in short supply growing up in Graham's blended family in Coventry, where she learned to take the hits of an air gun rifle but pillowfight like a champ.

Childless herself and intolerant of babies on a flight – offering up a pretty grim infanticide gag early on – Graham feels her reptile scales hardening. Woe betide the healthcare professional who offers her unsolicited advice on improving her smile.

She's certainly a compact, vaguely intimidating presence at the mic, her stage outfit of a white singlet vest an allusion to her name and the reputation for domestic violence attached to a popular brand of lager, her default mode of putting emphasis on a punchline that of flexing her haunches and casting forward, eyes unblinking in a 'can you believe this shit?' glower.

Certainly, she's the intense one in her long-term relationship with an easy-going, middle-class guy from Winchester. When she can't reach him by phone for a spell, she spirals into catastrophising, automatically assuming he's dead. And he probably wishes he was when she catches up with him. The therapy Graham is getting seems like a reasonable correction, the arrival of further security measures around their home possibly less so.

Although she's playing up her unreasonableness, Graham can always put it into context against the behaviour of her now 83-year-old mother, the classic potentially racist, loose cannon elder relative of stand-up lore,. The comic uses her Sri Lankan heritage and colouring to distance herself from the seething monster, a strategy denied to her blue-eyed, blond sister. Bizarrely, though, she gives her mum and Bernard Manning the very last line of the show, an inexplicable decision.

The reason for this outburst was yet another survival skill that Graham learned growing up. Unable to sing like her sister, who was encouraged by their mother in her pushy stage mum incarnation and scaled the heights of supporting The Backstreet Boys, Graham did at least develop a talent for mimicking the pop idols of the 1980s – Cher, Madonna, Annie Lennox.

However, if you can conceive a less appropriate hit for an eight-year-old to try to perform at a talent contest than the one she did, then Graham doesn't know it.

With echoes of the famous scene in the film Little Miss Sunshine, she attracted the laughs that may have later pushed her towards comedy, but certainly caused her mother to combust with the sexualisation of the spectacle. It's Graham's strongest routine and she robs it of charm at the death by being too candid about her parent's reaction.

Briefly worrying out loud about turning peri-menopausal, Graham doesn't allow herself to show much vulnerability or put her experience into a wider context of women generally outside her family circle, instead offering an intermittently amusing, blow-by-blow account of how she both is, and decidedly isn't, becoming a chip off the old tartar.

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Published: 25 Aug 2023

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Stella Graham: Karma Comedian

Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Stella Graham: A Pint of Stella

Edinburgh Fringe 2015

Stella Graham – Fox Sake

Edinburgh Fringe 2018

Stella Graham: Uncivilized

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Stella Graham: Sneaky Little Bitch

Edinburgh Fringe 2021

Stella Graham: Undercurrent

Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Stella Graham – Dragon

Edinburgh Fringe 2024

Stella Graham: Phoenix


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