Sarah Keyworth: Lost Boy | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Sarah Keyworth: Lost Boy

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Amid the many things coronavirus robbed us of, we may never see Little Keys, Big Jokes, the throwaway hour of silly jokes Sarah Keyworth had planned for the 2020 Fringe. It would have culminated in her being carried triumphantly from the stage by a strapping, semi-naked wrestler.

Still, life is full of surprises, especially in the early days of a Fringe run when not all cues are successfully executed. After two very funny but earnest shows about gender, sex and identity, Keyworth hoped to move on. But lo, if she hasn’t become a sex symbol in the meantime, objectified by her Bulgarian removal men and (potentially) members of the clergy at her first gig back after restrictions eased.

All rather confusing, particularly when she’s still sometimes being mistaken for a young boy. To her tremendous annoyance, Keyworth now sees a therapist, but doubts the woman’s effectiveness at anything beyond squeezing money out of her. She’s also now in a relationship with a long-time friend-turned-lover, whom she first met when her now-partner was 16. The reaction to this prompts Keyworth to tongue-in-cheek protest rather too much that she’s not a paedophile.

Coming from a male comic lamely seeking edginess, this would be tired and tiresome. But Keyworth appreciates the relative novelty of her lesbian licence to take on the challenge of making it funny, leaning in to and luxuriating in the double standards, pushing her capabilities as a stand-up.

Justifying the seemingly inappropriate was the default creative mode of Keyworth’s friend, writing partner and sometime director Paul Byrne, who sadly died earlier this year. It was he who encouraged her towards therapy and he whose rigorous, self-dissecting spirit haunts this hour, the ghost in the machine of Keyworth seeking both deeper within and further beyond herself. As well as demanding that she share a truly terrible joke about mangoes, simply for the devilment of it.

With Keyworth reflecting movingly on his passing, Byrne’s final gift to her, after seeing Bo Burnham’s Netflix special Inside, was the knowledge that you can still surprise yourself, even in middle age, with comic instincts as fluid as sexuality. All of which would be moot if Keyworth hadn’t genuinely evolved as a stand-up since 2019.

Yet she really has, becoming more adept at placing her personal circumstances into a more universal, relatable context and delivering a gag rate that’s punchier and less burdened with set-up and structural scaffolding.

She’s nimbler, seemingly less bothered with putting ideology front and centre. Byrne’s legacy can be perceived in the shows of other friends acknowledging him at this festival. But it’s most apparent in Keyworth’s professional confidence.

Sarah Keyworth: Lost Boy is on at Pleasance Courtyard at 5.40pm 

Review date: 6 Aug 2022
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson

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