Yuriko Kotani: Somosomo | Edinburgh Fringe review by Alex Bruce
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Yuriko Kotani: Somosomo

Edinburgh Fringe review by Alex Bruce

Yuriko Kotani presents a story largely about deciding to do stand-up despite the unsolicited insults, discouragement and criticism she has faced along the way. A show of great highlights, but highlights which also reveal how other sections simply don’t reach the same level.

Much of the show concerns Kotani’s being Japanese in Britain, and then returning to Japan, accidentally taking with her some British customs, notably hugging and imprecision. While this is fairly typical material, there are some hilarious elements, such as her adopting British-isms like ‘mate’ ‘innit’ and the brilliant, unexpected ‘chickenshit’.

Kotani relates her attempts to add sarcasm, humour, irony, puns and wordplay to her English language skills and these elements creep into the gags more as the show progresses. 

Somosomo is an exercise in Japanese/British compare-and-contrast, and this juxtaposition does give Kotani something worthwhile to play with. She can act up to the stereotypes, shoot them down, expose ignorance, or celebrate Britain’s (relatively) far superior gender equality (15th on the gender pay gap list, rather than Japan’s 110th).

These subjects of gender inequality, plus stories of relationships ending and unprovoked insults Kotani has faced, make for her strongest passages. They certainly earn the bigger laughs from an audience who can see this is the material she’s most truthfully invested in.

Thus she tells the story of all the times she’s been knocked down and chosen not to respond. Occasions on which she hasn’t stood her ground or fought back because of what she calls her ‘programming’ - to be unquestioningly polite, loyal, and pleasant at all costs. 

This final third of the hour is something of a fightback, as Kotani finds a voice that’s more defiant, sweary, and self-assured. This visible persona change rather than merely a verbal description from the comedian on stage, is welcome. Her anger grows and viscerally demonstrates transformation.

Kotani concludes that now she is going to answer back, stick up for herself, and do what she wants with her life, unrestrained by her programming, gender, or nationality. And though she needs to delve deeper into her strongest suits and eradicate some of the less important material, she absolutely has the potential to do so.

Review date: 15 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Alex Bruce
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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