All posts by Ben Raphael

Ben is a second-year film and media student, and chief subeditor of the Lamp and Owl. Interests include stand-up, screenwriting, and the films not of Christopher Nolan.

Bridget Christie: An Ungrateful Woman @sohotheatre

Five minutes before the show starts, I am at the bar for the ritual pre-gig decanting of beer into scratchy plastic cup. “You can take your glass into the theatre, no problem” the bartender says. As I gather my drink and coat, she asks “Bridget Christie?” I nod. She gives me the most sincere thumbs-up I’ve seen since the 90s.

Following 2013’s Edinburgh Award-winning A Bic for Her, Christie’s star has been very much in the ascendant. I was lucky enough to see an early version of An Ungrateful Woman before this year’s festival. That night, Christie was frenetic, forgetful, significantly over-time, but still wonderfully engaging. Three months later, the set is polished and pithy. If anything,  a little longer would be better. Another quarter-hour inside Bridget’s inspiringly skewed world of inconsiderate bookshop farters and limpet-crotched supermodels would still leave an audience wanting more.

The show opens with an extended riff on the interviewer who, after her 2013 Edinburgh success, asked what her next show would be about, now she’d ‘done feminism’. It ends with a righteous Christie, patiently explaining to the audition panel for a yoghurt advert how their script facilitates rape-culture. Depressingly it seems that 21st century sexism is a veritable goldmine of funny/sad observation, certainly enough to merit a second hour of stand-up and delightfully a second series of Radio 4’s Minds the Gap airing this coming January.

Christie comprehensively rubbishes the idea that feminism was last year’s story, taking in swipes at Nigel Farage (a particularly committed comedy performance, “he never breaks character”), a grudging acknowledgement that Michael Gove might actually have done the right thing, once (but then ruined it), and a pitch perfect dissection of Russell Brand’s emptily-verbose brand of messianic laddishness.

While retaining the silliness and play-acting from earlier shows, Christie is also increasingly self-reflexive in her comedy. In a bit about Steve Davis, she acknowledges that his supposedly sexist comment was taken out of context, but still gets away with a mime of him playing snooker with his penis. Later she implores the audience to reject plastic surgery and cherish the uniqueness of their vaginas, “like snowflakes made of gammon”.

There are ideas to spare here. Presentation can feel a little rushed even. Hopefully some of the jokes will get a bit more room to breathe in the radio series. The quick-fire approach pays dividends when it comes to more challenging material, however. A passage imagining a girl cheering for ‘good old British sexism’ as she is followed home by a leering gang of men treads the line between ridiculous and unbearable. And I’d struggle to think of another stand-up who could (respectfully) discuss FGM without fatally puncturing the mood.

In a pleasing early gag, Christie jokes that she was frustrated at A Bic for Her’s success, as she was hoping for a flop so she could retire and live off her husband. On the evidence of this accomplished set, that seems less likely than ever.

Bridget Christie is appearing downstairs at the  Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London, W1D 3NE on the following dates:

Mon 3 Nov – Fri 21 Nov. Fri 2 – Sat 10 & Mon 19 – Sat 24 Jan, 9.30pm

Tickets can be booked via the Soho Theatre website

Review: Jonah and Otto @parktheatre

We’re a quarter of an hour into Robert Holman’s 2008 play, and I’m struggling to remain upright. Sweat is running down my face; my vision is closing in. A ringing starts in my left ear, and slowly fills my head. I tense my calves to keep the blood flowing. Looking around the room I am not the only one in distress, a woman to my left is looking unwell. Her head lolls suddenly; the play is halted (with admirable concern and swiftness from the staff); the actors leave the stage; the lights go up. The woman recovers enough to leave the theatre, and we pick up from the same point. As others mumble their surprise at the sudden interruption, I regain my composure, and hope my sweaty shirt isn’t stinking out the back row.

To say the opening of Jonah and Otto overwhelmed our senses would perhaps be an overstatement. For my part, I suspect I had simply missed too many calories that day. Just an unfortunate set of coincidences. The piece, though confrontational in style, is not overtly shocking. There is a brief moment of physical threat, and a convincingly simulated fit. Besides that, we are mostly watching two men talk. The phrasing is disconcerting, however. Lines are clipped, and not quite natural. Though the setting (a ferry port, minimally evoked with occasional ambient sound) is mundane enough, we are not quite in the real world.

Otto (Peter Egan) is an old man, haunted by choices taken and opportunities missed. A faithless clergyman, when he says he doesn’t believe in God “because God doesn’t believe in me”, we know it is self-belief that he has lost as much as spiritual. Jonah (Alex Waldmann) also appears desperate, in need of direction, of insight into the people he has lost, and of love. He brings with him a baby in a shopping trolley, playing cards, a ready supply of fresh fruit, and a knife (to rob Otto, or to chop apples for his daughter?). The men argue, make judgments on each other and themselves, swear and smoke.

Further questioning the reality of the situation, a bold sequence gives truth to Jonah’s seemingly mischievous claims to be a magician, as he puts Otto to sleep and removes his suit. The effect is indeed magical; Jonah’s deft manipulation of the sleeping man, teenaged anarchy in his eye as he ridiculously swaddles himself in the much larger Otto’s clothes. The exposure of Otto’s ageing flesh, the surgical scars and knotted veins, is intensely poignant, evoked in a later speech where he talks of washing his late father’s body, in the hope of achieving the closeness and intimacy they didn’t have in life.

Jonah and Otto is daring, complex, sad, ultimately life-affirming theatre, performed confidently by talented leads, particularly Peter Egan, portraying disturbingly convincing glimmers of mortality. Also worth noting is the incredible professionalism and dignity with which the whole staff of this fairly new venue handled the early interruption. Go and see this play. If you can’t, visit The Park when you can. It’s a magical place.

Jonah and Otto runs until 2rd November 2014 at:

Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP

Bookings can be made via the online booking office