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Lucy Porter – Edinburgh Festival review

Sunday, August 05 2012

Pete Kelly wonders whether Lucy Porter might get an entire show out of undermining Jeff Green jokes

Lucy Porter

Lucy Porter begins by explaining her absence from the Fringe – and comedy in general – over the last few years. She’s been having babies: two children born in such quick succession that she was "pregnant twice in the same tax year".

Being a mother of young children has inspired much of the material in this new show; in particular the basic impossibility of becoming the kind of unflappable, ethical and craft-loving parent of her fantasies. The topics she covers – such as buying cheap, plastic noisy kids’ toys instead of charming wooden knick-knacks and the tedium of young-mum activity classes – are described with Porter’s natural cheeriness and precise, joyful turn of phrase.

Of course, "likability" is Porter’s greatest asset and her albatross: she’s never been seen as the most daring of comedians, with the slight suspicion that she gets by on sheer charm rather then the strength of her material. The likability certainly hasn’t diminished during her absence from the circuit, and for much of the show you may feel just delighted by her company rather than aching from belly laughs. She refers at one point to her slightly "wrong" way of looking at the world and motherhood, but it isn’t much in evidence through the majority of her set. Most of the darker, more barbed material comes from Porter quoting the quips of her more caustic friends. Maybe this is her way of smuggling in jokes with a bit more edge without undermining her winning amiability on stage.

Her charm is used to its best effect when dismantling the knuckleheaded laddishness of others. She takes a misogynistic joke, attributed to Jeff Green (while kindly suggesting that the line was perfectly fine in context) and manages to use, develop and completely undermine it all at once. You wonder if there’s a whole show in Porter appropriating the laddish jokes of unreconstructed male performers and transforming them with her twinkly charm.

In general though, Porter’s view on the world is more whimsical than barbed. She gets quite a lot of mileage out of some of the madder product reviews left on the Argos website. Yet even here she seems to have found one of the milder forums for insanity on the internet: her selected comments are more reminiscent of the insurance claim forms that Jasper Carrott used to read out in the 1980s, rather than the undiluted vitriol one can readily find on YouTube.

All of this would make Porter’s show a so-so affair, but what saves it from mediocrity is the show’s central story about her new best friend Sophie. It provides the thread that runs through Porter’s hour, tying pretty much everything together and paying off triumphantly at the end. It shows the comedian can spin a story with just the same precision and skill as she pens individual lines, and allows one to forgive and forget some of the thinner material in her show.

3.5 stars

• Lucy Porter – People Person is on at the Stand at 5.15pm

Review written by Pete Kelly


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