Janine Harouni: Man'oushe | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Janine Harouni: Man'oushe

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

If you plan to see Janine Harouni this Fringe, sooner might be better than later, given she’s eight months pregnant and her due date is worryingly close to the end of the festival.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that impending motherhood is at the heart of her delayed sophomore show, following her acclaimed debut in 2019.

Since then, she has also married the Irish comic Andrew Nolan, although the plans her parents had for a grand Catholic wedding in her native New York attended by her Trump-loving relatives were scuppered by Covid. Oh dear, what a pity, never mind. And she’s discovered that she’s Asian – or rather learned that Lebanon, where half her heritage comes from, is on that continent.

These milestones have caused her to reflect on her own family, especially her grandmother. A professional singer, she used to work with Lebanese musical superstar Fairuz but chose a new life as a mother in America over a potentially stellar career. Is that a decision Harouni will also have to confront?

Currently, pregnancy seems to have hardened her rather than softened her, and some dark abortion jokes are given extra wallop by being delivered by a heavily expectant woman. She’s also wittily withering about how little effort her husband had to put into the child… or ‘stomach bug’ as Harouni unsentimentally refers to it.

Her journey here has not always been smooth, and she addresses some of the more difficult parts of pregnancy not often spoken about, and what she might have to give up for parenthood - taking mushrooms on a Thai beach, for instance. And as well as birth, she’s also been forced to confront death this year with the early passing of a close friend.

These moments dent her engagingly smiley on-stage demeanour only momentarily, in a show that has its themes, but allows myriad anecdotes to drift over them, rather than doggedly defining a pathway through the material.

That narrative looseness probably deprives Man’oushe of some punch, though it does not lack polish (arguably it’s a bit too slick, in fact) or, more crucially, some great gags that skip deftly between the flippant and the significant.

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Review date: 9 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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