JoJo Sutherland: Riches To Rags | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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JoJo Sutherland: Riches To Rags

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

In her first solo Fringe show in five years, Scottish circuit stalwart JoJo Sutherland tells of how she came from a family so wealthy that she grew up in a castle – but it all disappeared overnight,  forcing them to move into a caravan.

This is all covered rather superficially. She dismisses such a seismic change in a few quick lines, and we never really get to know why her grandmother disinherited that side of the family, or where the money came in the first place, or how they battled to get out of the caravan. All sorts of dramatic possibilities seem squandered. Maybe all this is reserved for another show, though by the title and premise, you’d think it would be this one.

There are some musings on class, with Sutherland telling how she used to prefer hanging out with the working-class kids and that her children are in the same category, but to little comic avail.

Out of nowhere, she then gets bogged down in the topic of people getting persecuted for their jokes, from Paul Chambers’ tweet flippantly threatening to blow up Robin Hood airport in 2010 to Jo Brand being investigated for her gag that so riled Nigel Farage earlier this year. Concluding, as anyone with half a brain would, that it’s all about context, Sutherland adds nothing to the much-debated issue.

Another random shift in content comes as she starts discussing pranks, from the Cellophane over the toilet to ‘soggy biscuit’, the initiation game supposedly played in posh schools. Again Sutherland offers little more than explaining these, getting a few titters from the previously unaware.

With few jokes, and often only an incredulous delivery to indicate that this is comedy, the show seems on to a loser.

Then - bam! - Sutherland drops the bombshell that exposes what the show is really about... and it’s not the castle upbringing, although that does inform her subsequent reaction to the devastating news.

The shock revelation puts the first half of the show entirely into context - though it cannot supply any of the jokes that were missing from it - as Sutherland rages against the injustice she feels has been meted out, and shows her passionate determination to fight for what’s right. And for someone who speaks about context, she illustrates that there can be nuance behind the most salacious of headlines.

It’s an interesting, unique and valuable story that will leave an impact on whoever hears it. But from the point of view of presenting a show, the build-up to the pivotal moment is stilted, undercooked and poorly structured. Maybe having a powerful final section that would have any audience gripped gives less incentive to punch up the first act – but it prevents a powerful story parlaying into an excellent show.

Review date: 26 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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