Kirsten O'Brien: Confessions of a Children's TV Presenter

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

You can take the girl out of kids’ TV, but you can’t take kids’ TV out of the girl. Eleven years in primary-coloured broom cupboards have ingrained some potentially annoying traits into Kirsten O’Brien, so even when performing this adult show she literally leaps up and down with glee at her own punchlines. Plus she’s still happy to wear a daft oversized costume or two, coming on as a sausage or a fridge. It’s a consequence of the first rule of children’s television: Have no shame.

Done badly, cramming this upbeat, energetic larger-than-life performance into the tiny space of a Fringe venue could be maddening. As, too, could her over-keenness to subvert her U-rated day job by getting filthy, using the sort of language and images some of the younger audience members might be shocked to hear.

There’s a touch of out-of-school showing off about it, but only a touch, because O’Brien is just such a hugely likeable presence. She plays up to the image of a straight-talking Middlesbrough lass with a strong streak of self-depreciation, and in almost all the tales she tells, she comes off as the loser.

She’s certainly under no illusions as to he status in the showbiz hierarchy. After all, a career comprising gunge, panto and switching on Birmingham’s Christmas lights with a worse-for-wear Brian Conley shouldn’t give any well-balanced brain any delusions of grandeur.

The bank of anecdotes she’s gathered over the years is mighty entertaining. She would make a great chat-show guest with a story for every occasion. Far too many, indeed, to fit into an hour’s show, and we have to select some from a glittery wheel of misfortune, celebrity faces gurning out from it.

O’Brien’s dabbled in stand-up before, but this is rather a different prospect. It’s a storytelling show from the fringes of showbiz (though she manages to name-check some proper stars, from Chris Martin to Brian Blessed to her ex, Alan Davies) that’s always engaging and sometimes very funny.

What it leads to, or what it means in the grand scheme of comedy, it’s hard to see. But on its own terms, it’s an entertaining afternoon hour, presented with appealing openness and good humour by a charismatic host.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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