Eleanor Conway: Talk Dirty to Me | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Eleanor Conway: Talk Dirty to Me

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Eleanor Conway maintains that she doesn't know a lot about politics, but the personal is resolutely political in her latest sexually frank, feminist show.

Both in terms of her stand-up and in providing advice on how to achieve pleasure, she's chiefly catering to an under-served audience, that of heterosexual women.

And she's got the stats to back her. Despite ultimately being a celebration of the clitoris, Talk Dirty to Me starts dryer, and more lecture-like than she probably intends.

Denouncing the trick whereby straight women have been sold a conflated idea of pleasure and love, the latter is presented as a trap in which a passing infatuation ensnares women like her mother through childbirth. Meanwhile, feckless men like her father are at liberty to start again, fancy-free, if the relationship founders.

What's more, while women have fought for and won many of the same career opportunities as men, even in settled relationships they continue to carry out the majority of childrearing and domestic labour, which Conway effectively characterises as a hostage situation.

Nevertheless, she's wary of creating such a situation of her own. Notwithstanding some easy jabs at the naff male propaganda in the film Three Men and a Baby, she's conscious of sounding hectoring. 'The jokes are coming,’ she reassures. 'I'm not just trying to scare single women!'

Indeed, as a single, childless, 45-year-old woman herself she's living the dream, research having indicated that this makes her among the happiest of all demographics. And in practice, she's discovering that all those terrible dads that she's demonised, the ones who are now divorced and back in the dating pool, are the ones with the least baggage. Or at least, the ones less encumbered by it.

Why then, has she been dating a younger guy, whom she affectionately refers to as 'Stinky Cock'?

Taking the show out of the abstract, and rooting it much more in her own experience, she's a far more effective agony aunt. With a manifesto of persuading men to be more hygienic with their private parts, there's a quintessential Conway physical act-out, in which she mimes using foreplay as a cover for getting a good sniff of the goods. It has her front row, predominantly full of young women, but also the audience generally, howling with laughter.

Simply put, it's rare to see a comic of any sex or persuasion be as open and graphic about copulation. And Conway is clownishly accomplished at it, taking on the character of a Dickensian urchin as she pleads for just a little more foreplay.

Her comedic bona fides established, it's much easier for her to advocate the pros and cons of dating different generations of men, to indulge some bleak seriousness as she speculates darkly on her grandparents' long marriage and powerfully denounces the fact that marital rape didn't become illegal in the UK until relatively recently.

She accepts the charge that she hates men, even though she loves them, because she loves women and it's men who continue to lay them low.

This is an hour to make straight men paranoid she avers, and she's right. Her utopian vision of a world where women are predominately serviced by gay guys is an exaggerated power trip. But when she suggests that a sexual technique borrowed almost wholesale from porn has a secret imperative, it's savagely satirical. And surely not true right? Right?

More persuasive still are her ventures into the world of kink, a realm not for her, seemingly, until she's advised to reframe the power dynamic surrounding the giving and receiving of orgasms. A little role-play goes a long way. And it's damning, frankly, how easily horny men can be manipulated. Still, everyone's happy, so win-win.

Outspoken, and by British standards, bracingly candid about sex, Conway has the wit, relatability and physical skills to fully convey the ridiculousness of the act and the preliminary farce of modern dating. Initially at least, the darker aspects of the patriarchy overwhelms her comedic intent though. And she's better equipped to tackle the bigger picture when she puts her own experiences front and centre.

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Review date: 27 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters

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