Jen Brister: Me, My Mum & I

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Jen Brister has taken the subject matter which makes most of us hilarious in conversation with friends ­ our relationship with our mothers, the pain and the guilt - and lifted it above the commonplace.

In less assured hands this could have been a wry therapy hour, but this was warmly and gently funny, although the laughs were much more robust than that suggests. There was plenty of recognition of the fraught nature of mother-daughter relationships, especially the acknowledgement that the only safe area of conversation is cooking and food; anything else can lead to a blazing row.

Ostensibly set in her mother's living room, with Mum out back cooking, Brister creates a vivid picture of the intense Spanish woman, imitating her accent and idiosyncrasies without ever making her a female Manuel. Now staying with her mum (definitely not 'living back at home') and ineluctably regressing to pouty teenager, Brister revisits her childhood and the original experiences of having a loud Mediterranean mother, the trauma of wearing clothes chosen for her and being assured that shaving legs was quite unnecessary. Nothing controversial, but all offered with a sureness and lightness of touch that was perfectly entertaining.

Slightly less convincing is her projection of having a daughter of 17 with whom she has an entirely different relationship ­ the role of mother as best friend. In this, the daughter's characteristics, privately educated and RP speaking, are the indicators of Jen's future success.

It's a sneaky way of admitting to wanting more ­ until this point she has been playing low-status ­ making us a gift of her schoolgirl social rejection, her immaturity, her life not working out quite right at the moment. You can't help but like her.

She gives voice to some other characters ­ the aggressive, knuckle-dragging chav encountered at a bus stop, the Prince Charles soundalike woman whose mum is her best friend and some lisping Quasimodo English teacher. These caricatures don't add much ­ it's neither acting nor imitation, but they don't detract. Brister also interacts with her audience as if to prove - quite unnecessarily - her stand-up credentials, including some giggly flirting with a woman in the front row on this occasion.

It's a sweet, funny wee show; I could quite look forward to hearing further snippets of life with the Bristers on the radio.

Julia Chamberlain


Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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