Jodie Mitchell: Becoming John Travulva | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Jodie Mitchell: Becoming John Travulva

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Magic Mike Live would envy an audience as excitedly enthusiastic as John Travulva attracts. The room throbs with celebratory queer pride from the moment the drag king takes to the stage and claims it as his own.

The gruff Glaswegian persona commands the crowd, but alongside the bluster and the tongue-in-cheek posturing as a ‘feminist man’, he offers more conventional stand-up, too, such as imagining God as… well not quite gay, but definitely a friend of a friend of Dorothy’s. 

The routine’s a little over-long, but Travulva sells it well, and has fine command of the pauses that tease out the scenario. This parodic alpha-male is contrasted with the more restrained, more thoughtful comedian behind him, Jodie Mitchell, who speaks with a southern English accent thanks to a private education as the ‘poverty mascot’ of a posh school. 

Yet non-binary Mitchell makes the boundaries between themselves and their creation rather fluid. Travulva’s smarter and more clued-up about gender issues than the character really has any right to be, while Mitchell can control an audiences with soft power.

Between them, they have much first-hand experience to share about how a comedy club audience reacts to seeing a non-male comic on stage, compared to the inclusive, supportive drag king crowds, but Mitchell/Travulva enjoys them both.

This Fringe debut revolves around the ‘weirdest day’ they’ve ever experienced, in December 2022, when they faced the inquisitorial curiosity of a barber at ‘Mancave’, the worst comedy crowd and the best drag one, and then things went truly strange when they headed home…

Mitchell displays strong storytelling chops as we get to know everything from the Travulva origin story (Mitchell’s absent father, most likely), meet the comic’s super-wealthy bestie and learn why men are responsible for making more men, adding to the gender’s crime sheet.

A few segments are self-indulgent. There’s a surreal fantasy about a tampon-carrying hawk that’s more random than witty, and the sub-Stewart Lee repetition of the explanation of the drag king ethos seems derivative and unproductive. But the audience so love the performer, in whatever gendered guise, they will eagerly indulge it.

The central plank of the story is compelling, with plenty of innate humour in the bizarre way Mitchell, her girlfriend and posh mate dealt with an extreme situation. And it’s all topped off with a raucous Travulva drag routine, culminating in a cheerfully silly strip to reveal an image the Magic Mike lot wouldn’t know what to do with it. But here it’s a triumphant payoff and the appreciative audience are on their feet. That’s what you get from fans of the uber-supportive drag circuit.

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Review date: 5 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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