Chloe Radcliffe: Cheat | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Chloe Radcliffe: Cheat

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

At school in the US, Chloe Radcliffe was a national speech and debate champion - skills which persist to this day.

Cheat is an expertly put-together show. Radcliffe is a compelling speaker, emoting perfectly and skilfully letting the energy build and dissipate by weaving various stories of infidelity together, looping back to those that form a through-line. 

Its construction, worthy of greats like Mike Birbiglia, is impressive, but also feels a bit too slick; confessions become so highly packaged and polished that they now feel detached from the raw experiences. It’s if she’s analysed her behaviour and is now presenting the conclusions in a technically perfect way to fit the format of a one-woman show.

Or, as she wittily describes Cheat, ’a one-woman show but a 29-man show’ given the number of times she has strayed from the path of monogamy. Not necessarily with penetrative sex – she draws a red line there - but everything from heavy flirting and illicit snogs to actions just short of the boundary. It’s not a story of wildly scandalous transgressions – except for the attention-grabbing headline story that is – but none of her behaviours would look good if her boyfriends of the time were to see the video playback.

She puts herself on the metaphorical therapist’s couch to try to understand why she acts in this way. The easy answer, she suggests, is that she wasn’t considered especially attractive in high school and now that she’s objectively a lot hotter, she’s making up for lost attention. Or maybe the thrill of the illicit is like a drug she has to keep coming back for, at ever-high doses.

But nothing’s quite so simple as those pat answers, and she does get a bit bogged down in the self-psychoanalysis and questions about whether she is doomed to forever repeat the same pattern of relationship-destroying behaviour.

Radcliffe is a personable, naturally charismatic presence – to the extent that you can often be rooting for her, even as you know she’s in the wrong. And she has a supply of smart, funny lines that pepper the show liberally. They’re not always rip-roarers, but they add an amusing commentary and a consistently funny tone to ensure Cheat earns its billing as comedy, not just an emotional unload. 

Some gags are self-deprecating, calling out her errant behaviour, while others are a bit boastful, reflecting her knotty relationship with fidelity – a complication Radcliffe is confident enough to address but leave unresolved. For sometimes life just can’t be hammered into the template of a one-woman show with a neat denouement.

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Review date: 8 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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