Laura Lexx: Knee Jerk | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Laura Lexx: Knee Jerk

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

In last year’s well-received show, Laura Lexx opened her heart about the deeply personal mental health problems she encountered trying to conceive a baby, shining light on a dark issue with a delightful effervescence that engaged audiences.

In Knee Jerk, her focus goes outwards as she frets more about the state of the planet and society – further fears to prey on her mind, but this time the sort of thing that could keep anybody awake. Climate anxiety is the big one, and as she outlines her concerns in her enthusiastic jolly-hockey-sticks accent, it’s as if Mary Poppins had been recruited by Extinction Rebellion.

Her wider overview is  – as  anyone with a Twitter account will have already observed – that everyone’s angry these days, even those in the demographics who are clearly winning in the world. Social media inflames this tribalism as extreme views are rewarded with attention, she notes, and as factions divide, the same elite cabal conquer.

Though she jokingly warns that this is less a comedy show and more of a manifesto, her supercharged friendliness and generous good humour ensure it’s more of a jaunty get-it-off-your-chest chat than a polemic. And every point is tagged with a solid gag, as she repeatedly shows off a knack for witty phrase-making.

Yet she doesn’t, for the most part, seek to demonise those who disagree with her politically – even on the dreaded B-word she cannot bring herself say – hoping, surely idealistically, that left to our own devices, society would form a consensus somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum so we can concentrate on addressing the most pressing issue of climate catastrophe.

Lexx likes to evoke the notion of ‘1939 and the Germans are on the horizon’ to focus the mind. With an existential threat looming, everything else seems frivolous.  Sexism for example – and she recalls a couple of tiresomely misanthropic heckles she’s received to make her case.

Though they take a secondary role in this show, the mental health issues she’s learning to manage do play their part as she applies the coping mechanisms her therapist taught her about going back to the real cause of her anxieties on society at large. 

The show does slip into the lecture-like in the final furlong with a couple of longer routines, unfortunately placed together at the end, both of which play out a little too directly for maximum impact. 

In the first, she tackles transphobia, dismissing what she sees as fake concerns of those who raise safeguarding issues. But her argument seems a little simplistic, and she curbs her usual perky likability to get serious.

Then its straight into sexism by speaking of how it’s engrained early when boys are taught football and girls netball, a sport literally designed to keep women in their place. 

It’s an excellent observation and there are some good jokes in this  but the argument seems oversold through the repetition of points in a conversation that feels a little too contrived. So despite her increasing exasperation, this doesn’t quite crescendo as convincingly as it could when bringing the show to a climax.

Yet as with so much of Knee Jerk, she beings clarity and punchlines to her explanation of what’s up with the world. And rarely is news of catastrophe so cheerily delivered.

Review date: 3 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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