Underbelly, Bristo Square
August 6-13, 15-25 (16:00)
Around halfway through Tania Edwards breakneck 45 minutes of slyly charming vitriol I had to remind myself, again, that I was supposed to be writing a review about this. It is as great a compliment as I can think to give, that I was almost too busy enjoying her set to actually spend any time analysing it while I was there. So here, in retrospect, are my reflections. Edwards is not one of those classic Fringe awards bait numbers, the ‘Theme Show’. Attempting to wedge some overarching universal truth, or hard won moral lesson, into her set. As she informs us from the off, she doesn’t have time for that kind of thing, as she is a new mother to a bouncing baby boy. So the theme, if we really must discern one, is tiredness, and raging against anything that has been unfortunate enough to come into her eyeline in the last few deeply sleepless months. This frequently includes the audience.
It’s essentially a top-ten hate list that gets added to everytime she peers through the lights and into the crowd. Over-sharers, pensioners, young people, her friends, her husband. Nobody is safe from her ire. She delivers it with such confidence and chutzpah, and a wicked winning smile reminiscent of Nina Conti at her most charming, that it never slides off into monotone Gammon-esque impotent fury. Enough self-deprecation is tossed into the mix to keep you on her side, her rage at her own post-pregnancy body is used to deliver some creatively surreal riffs instead of the standard stand up fare about ‘Spaniels Ears’.
The audience are captivated, and every piece of excellent crowd work was a testament to this. That her not so friendly chit-chat with a pair of Ex’s in the front row, who still lived with each other for the pragmatic purposes of paying the bills, felt like part of her set, and received the same belly-laugh reception, tells you that she has spent a hell of a long time really grafting at honing her schtick.
She closes the set with a ‘racist joke’ about her husband Sanjeev, that usurps expectations enough to have the audience exploding with increasing crescendo at each of the punchlines. A real jab, jab, hook combo of Vladimir Klitchko proportions. However, the most telling moment of the afternoon comes when she realises that she now has to finish up the set, after an uproarious ending, by asking for contributions to the ‘Begging Bowl’, present at all Pay What You Want shows. This too she spontaneously turns into a punchline, which has the audience cheering her all over again and putting hands eagerly into pockets to pay their share.
This show was at 4pm on a Tuesday in a sticky basement, less than a week into the Fringe, and it was standing room only. Grab a ticket to see Tania Edwards now, I’ll be astonished if she’s not gracing the stage at Live at the Apollo this time next year.