Leo Reich: Literally, Who Cares

Leo Reich’s debut Fringe show is dazzling. A portrait of rabid Gen Z narcissism that is brilliantly funny, and despite the artfully superficial persona, threaded through with melancholy and rage; emotion which is ironic and also not. Reich is incisive about the conditions that have generated contemporary pathologies - the warping effects of technology for… Continue reading Leo Reich: Literally, Who Cares

Jerk

The BBC 3 sitcom Jerk, stars Tim Renkow as an anti-hero who exploits his cerebral palsy to get away with bad behaviour. Widely acknowledged to be ground-breaking in its representation of disability, the series is a radical departure from the narrative conventions that situate disabled characters as either victim or saint. With a clear kinship… Continue reading Jerk

Catherine Cohen: the twist?… she’s gorgeous

‘The Twist...? She’s Gorgeous’, Catherine Cohen’s recent Netflix special, sees her concoct a flamboyant spectacle of feminine narcissism, in a show characterised by a rather perfect tension between self-regard and self-deprecation, conceit and vulnerability, play and pain. Part of what’s dazzling about Cohen’s performance is the sheer speed and precision with which she moves through… Continue reading Catherine Cohen: the twist?… she’s gorgeous

Reasons to be Cheerful

Nina Stibbe’s novel, Reasons To Be Cheerful, the third volume in a series of semi-autobiographical novels, hasn’t been short of recognition, winning the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize in 2019, and the Comedy Women in Print Prize in 2020. As is so often the case with comic novels, though, critical suspicion lingers – with some critics… Continue reading Reasons to be Cheerful

Rutu Modan’s Tunnels

A thrilling adventure story, Rutu Modan’s new graphic novel, Tunnels, is also very funny. The story has a buoyant, almost farcical energy, and there’s a satirical aspect too, an empathetic satire which is fond rather than acrimonious. As with her previous work, Modan’s subject is Israeli life, and the story’s archaeological focus shows the preoccupation… Continue reading Rutu Modan’s Tunnels

Mike Birbiglia: orchestrating anxiety

   Mike Birbiglia creates masterful endings. It’s not good form to talk about endings, especially in stand up, when an effective ending can be so transformative. With tension such a key component - both at the level of individual jokes and of fully developed sets or specials, with punchlines and closers providing the release (or… Continue reading Mike Birbiglia: orchestrating anxiety

Mark Leidner: Anti-myth myth-making

Returning the Sword to the Stone, the title of Mark Leidner’s newest collection, gestures to renunciation, or reversal, and the invocation of myth is developed by a line within the poem itself: ‘removing royalty from your bloodline by returning the sword to the stone’. The notion of reversing or undercutting myth threads throughout the collection,… Continue reading Mark Leidner: Anti-myth myth-making

Jack Docherty’s meta-romcom

How to classify Jack Docherty’s new storytelling Fringe show, Nothing But? It’s a romcom of sorts, and a meta-romcom at that, one that has its cake and eats it too. Alongside the romance narrative itself, it’s also a record of the attempt to create a romcom, and a commentary upon the genre more generally. Docherty’s… Continue reading Jack Docherty’s meta-romcom

Dead Souls

A satire on the cultural sector, which uses humour to play with ideas about literary convention and value, Dead Souls is also a series of philosophical enquiries, with plagiarism the preeminent theme. Set in a slightly warped world where poetry has become immensely lucrative, the novel explores the case of a plagiarising poet, Solomon Wiese, publicly shamed… Continue reading Dead Souls

Googly eyes

The cartoonish owl in Nicole Eisenman’s new sculpture, ‘Love and Generosity’, eyes pointing slightly in different directions, is one of a string of recent characters with the same feature: Heihei, the stowaway chicken in the Disney film, Moana; the pigeon in Spies in Disguise who eats anything and everything; and most recently, the family’s pug… Continue reading Googly eyes