Katherine Ryan: Glitter Room on Netflix | Review by Steve Bennett © Catherine Harbour
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Katherine Ryan: Glitter Room on Netflix

Review by Steve Bennett

Katherine Ryan’s latest stand-up show has a lost a little something in the transition from stage to Netflix. Live, her charisma and playfulness comes through a little stronger than on screen, to better sugar the more abrasive edges of her humour.

For Glitter Room is packed to bursting with attitude, primarily in the way she champions a family unit that’s different from the norm. She’s a single mum, and delighted to be that way, flying in the face of the perceived view that women have to ‘attract’ a man to be successful. 

Being able to buy a London flat from her own labours is the trophy to prove otherwise.  Yet when her daughter Violet’s bedroom was done out in the sparkles that gives the show its name, her builder told her ‘no man will want to live here’. Which was exactly the point for a comedian who is the very epitome of the strong, independent woman. Contrast, too, how Ryan just gets on with motherhood whereas a single man would be lauded for just covering the basics.

It’s easy to get the idea Ryan is down on men. Calling them ‘natures's guns’ gives that sort of impression. But she insists she adores them; it’s the toxic masculinity that harms all genders that’s the issue. That plus what you could call a ‘toxic femininity’ that obsesses on appearance above all else - culminating in the notion, made wonderfully preposterous in Ryan’s hands, of the ‘revenge body’.

She’s flawed in her own feminism, however, and admitting to jetting to Japan to be with a bloke because he demanded it. Now she can look back and laugh at her stupidity, inviting  us to do so too – hoping, perhaps, in subtly alerting other women to the fact they have choices. It’s a rare story when her own actions are subjected to the withering wit she generally aims outwards. Even when she’s mocking the one-woman protest she claims to have started during a performance of Hamilton, it’s the founding father’s abuse of masculine power that’s the real butt of the joke.

Not all Ryan’s jokes are lobbed at patriarchal norms, even if most are. She’s waspish about the WASPs, epitomised by her perfectly middle-class yummy mummy neighbour Jane, whose smug marriage is forensically dissected here. You do not want to get on the wrong side of Ryan during the school run.

Ryan’s short, stinging jokes come at a rapid rate especially the start of the special. She does not want to lure you in gently, but barrels out full pelt,  with a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude that seems pushier from the sofa that a theatre seat.

Her rate eventually slows, with a couple of longer, slightly less successful, routines such as her supposed stalking of Anna Kendrick, offering a respite from her campaigning comedy against the spurious stigmas society throws up.

For Glitter Room is overwhelmingly comedy with a purpose, which makes it feel contemporary and relevant, without lessening the barrage of punchlines.

Review date: 2 Jul 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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