Ria Lina: School of Riason | Review by Julia Chamberlain
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Ria Lina: School of Riason

Note: This review is from 2014

Review by Julia Chamberlain

This show’s macguffin was ‘home-teaching’. What Ria Lina did taking her children out of school for a year to teach from home.

As a pro comic and a mother of three she has to be super organised, and this show was meticulous in its execution. An excellent opening video with cheesy music introduced the children and Ria Lina in teaching mode – see also the poster with sensible cardie and mortar board, a stereotype from the Beano in the 60s. I think the Head in the Bash Street Kids was the last teacher in a mortar board. And then she popped on stage looking like a naughty adolescent in a vest and teeny shorts, somewhat undermining her image as a mature and responsible parent.

Remarkably there were no parents in the audience, or none letting on, but at least one junior school teacher. And everyone was remarkably onside. Ria Lina is transparently smart, hard working and has plenty of sharp comments to make about Michael Gove, education, middle-class aspiration and the general stupidity of most people and children (subtext: compared with her).

The show is punctuated with video, PowerPoint and goddamit a ukulele and songs. Can I state now, not just for this show, but for all shows that include a ukulele and perky, plinky songs, that they add nothing, sod all, and it’s become a comedian’s nervous twitch to put them in. It may be her thing, but the show would have been better without this – find another way of engineering an applause break. A cheap song about paedophiles, seven minutes in set the bar low and I would think with her incisive intelligence she had the potential to do much more. But having started at the bottom, she then delivered some base stereotypes about the French (they stink), the Germans, (vermin) and some barrel-scraping stuff about fingers in the dyke, flooding and gay marriage.

This aside, Lina’s show is well made, there’s plenty of internet research for amusingly stupid signs, some well made points about the tabloid demonisation of the girl who blew 24 guys in Magaluf when there was no condemnation of the men, which then occasioned a song about STIs. The most impressive writing in the whole piece was an extended routine of mathematically based puns to tell a story (think Punt and Dennis and Tube stations), with necessary illustrations for the numerically illiterate among us. The final song, less jaunty than the rest and all the better for it, addressed the crass reasons used by the tabloids (or Daily Mail) turn people into celebrities and how she just doesn’t tick the right boxes. It didn’t need to be a song! It’s worth saying! Rhyming doesn’t add in any funny that isn’t there, and devalues some good points.

There’s no doubt Ria Lina is academically smart, politically astute and with the knack of making clever things sound like they might be funny by cueing the audience with songs, music and slick delivery - a confidence trick in the kindest sense of the word. The audience was appreciative, practically pavlovian in its response, but for me this was all cunning technique, a lot of clever, cheaply dressed as funny.

Review date: 3 Aug 2014
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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