Material: Delivery: Laughs:
Abi Roberts’ show, Anglichanka, started with the comedian greeting us at the door of this bunker venue, her funny, excited passion engaging us immediately and had us laughing even before we took our seats. One of her themes for the night, gratitude, was also apparent – in fact her gratefulness almost shone through her as she took great strides down the room to reach the stage, all the time encouraging our participation as she drew us into conversation by asking where everyone had come from. There were some French people in the audience, and to Abi’s delight, a few folk over from Russia, here to take in the Fringe. This was the perfect opportunity for her to embark upon her unique brand of comedic dialogue, switching in turn between English and Russian – the first UK comic to employ this eclectic blend of languages – as she proceeded to regale us, in side splitting fashion, with tales of her time staying with a Russian family when she was a student in the 90’s, having gone to Russia at the tender age of 18 to try and study Opera. She explained that while she was there she picked up the name “Anglichanka” which translates simply as “an English person in Russia”, and hence the title of her show.
This was an evening perfectly structured between uproarious hilarity and poignant moments where Abi seemed almost moved to tears at a particular recollection, then would straight away have us bursting out in fits of laughter as she cracked another joke. Along the way she offered us insights into the impact of the choices we make, how important gratitude was and what experience teaches us. Her enthusiasm never faltered as she instantly responded to the reaction of the audience, always ready with a quick one-liner. The creative ebb and flow was greatly enhanced by passages in fluent Russian which lent the whole act a totally unique flavour of worldly revelry. All this made for a stand-up routine which was genuinely appealing and offered up an approach which was at the same time electric, edgy and deeply touching. One of the features I particularly enjoyed was the way Abi talked about the love and gratitude she felt for her very special Russian family, who had so little yet loved life so much. This served as a contrast to the many operatic and cultured people she encountered on her extensive travels, and was all the more touching for that. There was no holding back as she shared these feelings with us and laid out before us a cunning and passionate blending of character and cultural nuances.
It takes courage for a stand-up comic to open themselves to possible ridicule and rejection and be the butt of their own jokes – not always guaranteed to work. It was an exhilarating experience to watch Abi Roberts navigate these dangerous waters and deftly keep turning the wheel to even more absurd and intense extremes. In fact Abi plainly revelled in it, winning us over from the start as a warm, welcoming and completely genuine host, inviting us to laugh AT her and WITH her in an evening of non-stop fast moving comedy that is well worth a visit. Just don’t blink or you’ll miss a joke!
Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly