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Tiffany Stevenson: Dictators

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Say what you like about dictators, but they tend to have a sense of purpose. Which, ironically enough, is the main thing missing from Dictators.

Tiffany Stevenson amiably chats through her second solo show, but the content is shallow and disjointed. Likewise, there are a smattering of decent jokes, but too few to sustain the hour. It ends up a loose collection of half-considered thoughts, with no sense that this is a coherent piece with something to say, nor enough laughs to distract you from that fact.

For proof, you need look no further than the list of dictators she has chosen to study. It starts, reasonably enough, with Adolf Hitler, Robert Mugabe and Muammar Gaddafi, but then also includes her Mum (leaving this 32-year-old still charging, like a teenager, that Mum is *such* a Nazi for not letting her be herself) and, erm, OK! magazine.

OK! gets in because of its body fascism, making its readers feel inadequate as the pursue the unrealistic Size Zero figure that its editors believe is ideal. Don’t be so superficial is a fine, if barely original, sentiment – only entirely undermined by Stevenson ending this section with a cheap, bitchy jibe about the way Sarah Jessica Parker looks. If only it was meant as irony…

Also, I said this is a ‘study’ of dictators, but it makes OK! look deep. She hasn’t gone into the history to unearth any quirky facts, or to really get to grips with the subjects – which she instead uses as set-ups for trite formulae (‘What if Hitler had a Facebook page?!’) or a few gags about concentration camps. But she’s not a hard-hitting shock comic, they’re just puns – so she neither scores for those who like their gags really sick, while the subject matter means it’s not quite just silly bits of wordplay.

‘Not thought through properly’ might be a motto for the show. Even from the very start of this performance, when she realised she hadn’t got her prop hat. The technician scurried to get it, and so the show could start properly. And what did she do with the hat? Immediately give it to a member of the audience to hold and never mention it again. That one-off forgetfulness is only a small thing, but it highlighted the pointlessness of that bit of business, a feeling that persists.

To be fair, there are a handful of good jokes in the show, but it can’t escape the feeling this is her best ten minutes padded out with another 45 of filler. Her family anecdotes are supposed to be the thread that runs through it all, but they tend to raise only a smile, not a chuckle, and the conclusion of the show seems like a forced addendum, an imitation of the sort of neat closure acclaimed shows have, but not emerging naturally from the preceding material. No surprise given what a jumble it was.

Review date: 8 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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