The Ballad of Sarah Callaghan | Edinburgh Fringe review by Jay Richardson
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The Ballad of Sarah Callaghan

Edinburgh Fringe review by Jay Richardson

Sarah Callaghan has grown deeply cynical about the comedy industry, citing the famous comic who constantly forgets he's met her and the television producers who claim an interest, but only if she changes the way she speaks and the things she talks about.

She probably doesn't help herself with snide digs at popular cornerstones of the industry such as Only Fools And Horses and David Walliams. Or questions about Alan Carr and Michael McIntyre's authenticity, no matter how jokey.

But the truth is that this once vital act, a youthful, working-class voice who might genuinely offer something a little bit different on the box, has already begun pulling away from comedy, mixing her routines up with performance poetry that seems like a better fit for her heartfelt angst.

Abrasive and opinionated, occasionally brattish, she's never fitted in easily, a tomboy who irked her male friends' girlfriends with her rough-and-tumble ease around the lads, having to work doubly hard to win the women round.

With simmering resentment seemingly her default setting, she reminds herself in verse to never stop hustling, the rhymes more potent for their sardonic flashes of aggrieved wit interspersed amongst the seriousness.

Searching in vain for role models, she heaps a lot of the current obsession with celebrity on the pitiable Piers Morgan, while acknowledging that deep down, he just wants to be loved like the rest of us.

She doesn't lean on her working-class origins as an excuse, arguing that a posh upbringing is as likely to mess you up. But she expresses her 'judgey' nature with her work at a nursery, damning some of the kids while they're still in nappies.

Without the pressure of punchlines to hit, the poetry allows Callaghan greater scope to expand upon her parents' loveless coupling and her difficulties with school. Still, she relates a lot of her anger back to her father exposing her to horror films at a young age. His thoughts on artificial intelligence are at least the inspiration for her best poem, a dystopian glimpse into a future that seems worryingly close.

Despite her trust issues, she rather downplays the importance of #MeToo, though that's arguably for the gag of wondering why she can't get any inappropriate attention. Elsewhere, she continues the policy of cheap shots, clumsy personal attacks without the saving grace of intelligence or satire on Little Mix and the late Leon Brittan - being a dead Tory not really enough to simply slander someone and then move on without a fresh take

Nuanced and vibrant in a way her comedy no longer is, poetry engages Callaghan in a way that her stand-up career clearly pains her. It seems like that's what she should pursue.

Review date: 26 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Laughing Horse @ Finnegan's Wake

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