Susan Calman: The Calman Before The Storm | Review by Steve Bennett
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Susan Calman: The Calman Before The Storm

Review by Steve Bennett

Susan Calman insists you’ve got the wrong impression of her. She’s a Radio 4 favourite who isn’t everybody’s favourite, a left-winger who doesn’t want the total collapse of capitalism, a Scot who hates haggis, whisky and Irn-Bru and a Glaswegian who isn’t working class.

In reality, though, Calman Before The Storm is unlikely to shatter your conceptions of her as a sprightly conversational stand-up who speaks self-effacingly about her sometimes batty behaviour with a supercharged friendliness.

Each label she’s supposed to comply with is given its own chapter in this free-flowing show, starting with the regular appearances on the News Quiz, a career path which she says has surprised her more than anyone. She suggests it gives the false impression that she’s an intelligent, ‘nice lady’, although that image remains intact at the end of this breezily funny show, despite her protestations.. even if she was out of her depth on University Challenge, and having a basket full of eccentricities. From the unusual name of her cat, to having a major fall-out with her wife over Batman, she embraces her quirks for our entertainment, and we appreciate the peculiarities and the honesty.

There are jokes about her height, 4ft 10in (not the 4ft 11in she previously claimed to appear more glamorous), about her Scottishness (we’re asked to rate her against other Caledonian celebrities); or about her efforts to keep fit (she’s actually pretty active, even if her tiny Trump hands make chin-ups a challenge).

Some of the material on stereotypes is a little straightforward, and she’s not immune from using them herself, playing the game ‘gay or French?’ with people she and her wife spot in Paris… as if ‘both’ couldn’t be an option.

But when she has a social message, it has impact, as the iron fist of political comment is disguised in the velvet glove of her gushing, affable approach. There’s a smidgeon on homophobia and, most effectively, a takedown of the patriarchy. Outdated misogyny is easy to mock, but Calman has the perfect way to undermine the supposedly all-powerful Patriarchy by giving it a less intimidating – and more accurate – name; neuro-linguistic programming at its best.

So after an hour, your expectations of Calman will probably not be shattered. Especially if you expected her to be funny.

Review date: 18 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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