Evelyn Mok: Hymen Manoeuvre | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett
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Evelyn Mok: Hymen Manoeuvre

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

We have come to expect comedians baring their souls on stage, but Chinese-Swedish Evelyn Mok’s powerful debut is extraordinarily candid, even by the standards of the Fringe.

There’s little theatrical filter between the emotions she’s talking about so frankly, giving them real potency. And even if not everything translates into laughs, it ensures the hour is an emotionally engrossing ride.

The crux of her debut is the fact that she didn’t lose her virginity until she was 25, by which point she had built the deed up in her head to carry so much significance. Needless to say it was a disaster, and she describes the awkward encounter in full, ikky detail.

So far, so relatively straightforward, but what gives Hymen Manoeuvre its heft is the extent to which Mok plunges into her hang-ups, about her body type, about her ethnicity, about what people might think of her having sex, and the weight of expectation she had put on to the act. 

Essentially, she is racked by so much self-doubt that she cannot trust anyone who would want to have sex with her. She questions the motives of everyone who shows an interest in her. Have they got some sort of kinky fetish for larger Chinese girls? And she’s proud of her personality and her wit – if a man just wants her for her body, isn’t that invalidating all those attributes? 

She has more hang-ups than an Ikea wardrobe. Even when the cherry was popped, she felt she had to flee back to Sweden, convinced the deed was the talk of everyone she knew (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). In admitting to these feelings, Mok demonstrates a compelling emotional recall, reliving the terrors as if they were yesterday. Maybe they are fresh, because she is still inexperienced, still anxious about sex.

Where did all her emotional baggage come from? Mok offers a lot of context, from the tough family story of her grandmother walking from China to India with her feet bound, to her own upbringing in sexually liberated Scandinavia and on to her aims for life, which seem to echo a middle-class white woman.

In performance, she has command of her storytelling, and sometimes deliberately makes the audience feel as uncomfortable as she is. Although her style also comes at the expense of some punches in the more clearly comic sections, which get weaker the further away from her true emotions she gets. 

Ultimately, you feel her vulnerability. You want her to get over her issues. To get laid again, and to enjoy it. 

Review date: 22 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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