Kate Berlant: CommuniKate | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Kate Berlant: CommuniKate

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

You’ve got to adore Kate Berlant’s attitude. The epitome of the hyper-intense, hyper-egotistical Hollywood type, she makes he simple task of moving the microphone stand an audacious feminist statement, then praises her bravery for taking on the patriarchy in such a fearless way.

Her narcissism assumes we find her endlessly fascinating, but although she basks in our attention, she also finds it draining – never failing to remind us what a selfless trouper she is in giving so much of her precious, unique self to us.

It is a masterful study in mercurial passive-aggression, in which she proclaims that she is here to wake us up to the state of the world, preaching in a patronising way born of the entitled privilege of Los Angles’s middle classes. 

This rising star of American comedy – getting noticed for online shorts, a memorable Tonight Show appearance with her sometime comedy partner John Early and a mini-special on Netflix’s The Characters –  is a mesmerising, unpredictable performer with a real spark; a woman with obvious funny bones and the wit to have figured out how to best to use them.

Her premise for her first time in Edinburgh is that she has decided she’s probably psychic, and is going to cold-read the audience, getting vibes that, variously, September 4, new carpet or joint problems mean anything to someone in the room.

These statements are effectively fancy forms of crowd work, more varied than the usual comedy club icebreakers, and Berlant riffs around the responses – or lack of – either in playful to-and-fros or by improvising stream-of-consciousness scenarios around whatever information she gets back.

Fun though this is, this format eventually runs out of steam, especially when a few too many of her predictions draw Blanks – and when the audience come to realise that she’s going to commit to this contrived badinage for the full hour, it’s not leading anywhere in particular.

Berlant doesn’t quite build up epic fictions like Ross Noble does with his slightly similar shtick, nor does she have any plan B to fall back on when the audience interactions stall. That is certainly ballsy, a testament to her commitment to a cause, but also slightly disappointing that she doesn’t fully cash in her immense comedy capital by bringing the hour down with a climactic finale.

Review date: 8 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Assembly George Square

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