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Bridget Christie: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Jay Richardson

Dismayed at the misogyny she perceives creeping back into society, Bridget Christie is fighting back the only way she knows how: with a passionate vindication of the rights of women and daft costumes.

Anyone who’s seen Christie’s recent Edinburgh shows will be familiar with characters like A Ant, the ant stand-up comedian and Japanese Knotweed, the Fringe’s first weed comedian, comedy in-jokes from the perspective of a minority group performer.

Jason the War Donkey is cut from similar cloth. Yes, that’s right, yet another donkey comic, when everyone knows donkeys aren’t funny, as donkey journalists and Germaine Greer are often the first to remind us.

Taking the stage to the crackle of gunfire, smoke, explosive flashes and the sober introduction of Newsnight’s Gavin Esler, Christie’s self-confessed ‘heavy-handed metaphor’ is actually one of a long line of donkeys who have fought in the trenches, nurturing a grudge against those celebrated and indulged ‘upper-class’ war horses.

Rejecting observational, Jesus-related stand-up and comparing Eeyore to Ricky Gervais’ controversial character Derek, Christie’s targets are scattershot, and she wisely ditches the costume after just ten minutes. Before pulling on an inflating ballerina fat suit.

She’s supposed to be Edwin Starr on his early Noughties comeback trail, singing his seminal hit War, affording an unlikely degree of gravitas to a report on the survival wiles of Afghan women, some of the most oppressed in the world.

Having sublimated her rage into criticism of her venue, her husband and her previous, less successful Fringe hours, Christie now gives full vent to her frustration, citing a single day in April as the straw that broke the donkey’s back. A series of knocks, including a spitefully sexist review, the cancellation of a film she was making for Amnesty International and the blinkered obliviousness of a male Waterstones employee to the women’s section of the bookshop, all contribute to her despair.

Recounting an overheard conversation between young girls, planning their next cosmetic treatment with as little thought as entering a pub quiz, she bemoans the pernicious influence of porn on mainstream culture, unable to conclude all this vagina-talk without pulling the donkey back on to hide her discomfort.

This leads into the best pitched and most satisfying part of the show, a critique of ‘new Tory feminists’ like MPs Louise Mensch and Nadine Dorries, alongside justice secretary Ken Clarke and television presenter Kirsty Allsopp. Despite pulling her punches somewhat, recognising in Mensch a fellow victim of internet trolls, Christie otherwise clinically takes them to task for their regressive statements, conjuring up extreme extensions of their logic, arch ripostes in T-shirt slogan and giddy revenge fantasy.

Threatened with rape by a poster on one ‘comedy’ website, and notwithstanding all the dressing up, Christie makes little effort to remain detached from her material. This is a strength insofar as it gives War Donkey a compelling immediacy and personal intimacy, a weakness in that she compresses too much into the hour, when judicious direction might have helped deliver a more focused, coherent narrative.

Confronted with male boorishness or malevolence, she encourages women everywhere to join her in a dirty protest. This may or may not be what Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf and Dr Helen Castor have striven for. But at least one Waterstones employee is now that little bit more aware of liberal, liberated feminism.

Review date: 9 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Assembly Rooms

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