Louise Atkinson: Mates | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Louise Atkinson: Mates

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Louise Atkinson bills herself as a ‘gobby Northern comedian’ more used to battling hen dos late at night than delighting an afternoon festival crowd.

But while she can’t resist a ‘who’s drinking tonight?’ opener, her assured debut is an object lesson in how to frame joke-led, anecdotal stand-up in a Fringe-friendly format, giving purpose to an hour so it holds the attention without straining the point.

She is inordinately proud of being able to move from talking about buttplugs to Aristotle in one segue, as well she might, reflecting the two modes of comedy she so successfully melds.

The structure comes from semi-serious musings on the nature of friendship, from Dunbar’s number, which posits that humans are only cognitively designed to have 150 relationships and five close pals, to the difference between fleeting encounters in nightclub toilets and long-lasting connections. It’s not especially deep, but provides a strong through-line that supports all her other musings and stories. Why do we continue to hang out with those we know to be knobheads? And why are male friendships so very different from female ones?

Cue a love letter to her mates, including Laura, who’d cheerfully dispose of a body for her, and the malapropism-prone, and rather slobby, Steph. We get to know them as well as we get to know Atkinson herself, a woman who’s acutely self-aware of who she is and how she comes across. 

The comic urges us to be ‘romantic’ with our pals, believing romcoms have given us too narrow a definition of that adjective. Is this an excuse to shoehorn her chunk about such films into the narrative? Surely. But it also paves the way for her to discuss a potential friendship breakup that could be as devastating as the collapse of a life partnership.

There’s another relationship at play here, too, which she doesn’t acknowledge: her interplay with the audience. With an excess of East Yorkshire charm, Atkinson is enthusiastically affable, without trying too hard, engaging in strong  banter that elicits great responses. She’s clearly having fun on stage and we’re honoured to share that.
She’s often compared to Victoria Wood – and has a similar knack for a splendidly precise turn of phrase – but it’s only an occasional throwback as Atkinson’s very much her own comedian.

Not all the escapades she describes are quite funny enough to earn their place, but the set is sufficiently fast-flowing that none of the quieter moments linger. And her innate funny bones reassure you that you’re in safe hands.

Review date: 28 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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