Katharine Ferns is in Stitches | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Jay Richardson
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Katharine Ferns is in Stitches

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Jay Richardson

Katharine Ferns is a perky, charismatic performer with an acute sense of irony. And she has to be, because this is a dark, revelatory show that's more about her catharsis in delivering her story as it is the humour she can derive from it.

It begins on April 21 last year with her being checked for cancer in an intimate area and her hero Prince dying. And it gets bleaker from there. Even the promise of cocaine and kitten diversions aren't the Light Relief she trails them as.

For this is a tale of abuse, on the part of authority figures but most of all Ferns' first boyfriend, Ninja Mike, whose physical attacks on her left a lifetime of damage that the comic is still dealing with.

In truth, the Canadian comedian’s problems began much earlier with her British parents – her violently tempered father and her mother managing the incredible feat of being both a psychologist and a textbook psychopath. They instilled in Ferns the idea that she needed to be perfect to be loved, and she's been drawn consistently to exploitative arseholes ever since. Jim Jefferies, for one, is probably not delighted to be mentioned in the company he keeps here.

Nor do the Canadian police or medical profession come out of Stitches well, with the abiding impression being of an establishment either disinterested or covering its own backside ahead of caring for a vulnerable woman. And though you make allowances for the physical and mental pain relief Ferns has sought, you'll be left dumbstruck by her repeated return to drugs and sex as a palliative, in the pursuit of mastering her bullies or obtaining her full medical history.

That she seems so relatively well-adjusted is credit to her. But it's not enough, and she maintains that the best revenge is not living well but actual revenge. Several chickens come home to roost by the end, albeit with further horrific details revealed. But the thought of her performing it in her gossipy home town is mind-blowing for the potential fallout, especially if she names names as she does here.

Despite Ferns’s easy stage presence and wry awareness of her audience's discomfort, there are passages of the show that make you long for the intimate details of her various surgeries as light relief, her eye for the occasional absurdities of her situation only leavening the repugnance to an extent.

There are laughs sprinkled throughout. But Stitches very much feels like a bundle of things that Ferns has to get off her chest, which have to be addressed before she can move on with her life and her stand-up career.

Review date: 28 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson

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