Review – Ava Vidal, Going Dutch
Ava Vidal's latest one threatens to be an excellent hour, but ends up being too much like a manifesto and not enough like a comedy show, writes Sarah Sharp
Community is the subject of Ava Vidal’s latest show, Going Dutch. To "go Dutch" is of course to pay your own way – but can also be seen as "every man for himself".
Pitting this against the more appealing idea of sharing and, by extension, liberalism, Vidal takes us on a tour of modern society – and finds a world still sadly hung up on small-mindedness and bigotry.
As you might expect from the title, she starts us off in the Netherlands, where they have "Black Pete", an anti-Santa who is a customary part of festive celebrations. In their homeland, Dutch audience members had indignantly denied that he was racist. "He is black because of all the soot from the chimney," they explained, with a kind of charming rationalism. "Oh yeah?" sniped back our host – "and his nose got broader and his lips got fatter too, did they?"
She then jumps to Australia, where the climate might be different but race relations still need a bit of work. Turns out this is a running theme. We move to the land of the interweb and the foul mouthed hordes of Twitter – as a frequent recipient of the hash tag #hate, Vidal is an apt commentator on this relatively new phenomenon of digital discrimination. So the verdict’s in: there's a lot of petty wankers out there.
She has some brilliant material on the way black people acknowledge each other in foreign countries – the nod of solidarity. Nor is it just ethnic minorities that club together in this way "in case the room turns" – she relates a story of how at a recent gig Ed Sheeran exchanged a cool hello with her red-haired friend. "How do you know Ed Sheeran?" she asked. "I don’t," came the reply – "that was the Ginger Nod."
Vidal is a confident stage presence and she gives a fluid, seemingly effortless performance. She’s very good at building a moment of pathos and then undercutting it with an acerbic one liner. This constant flip-flop between kindness and cruelty is the main part of her appeal.
But her ease onstage could also be her downfall – eventually the punchlines began to peter out, and it started to feel like listening to your mate mouth off in the pub. Passion in a comic is great, and comedy absolutely can and should be political – but it still needs structure. Tonight's show lacked that, and while I wouldn't quite call it a rant, it did leave me feeling confused as to whether I just heard a comedy set or a manifesto.
A shout out has to go to Friday’s warm-up act, Prince Abdi. Despite a slightly gauche tendency to grin at his own jokes – it was unclear whether it was intended to be as unnerving as it was – he gave out some excellent lines and got in some good laughs. His material on the yo-yo extremes of Bollywood emotions showcased a real talent for physical comedy and he could definitely be one to look out for on the circuit.
Going Dutch was a good show with a meaningful premise – a laudable thing in itself. But ultimately the second half did not match up to the beginning. Vidal is an excellent performer and, unlike a lot of folks in this recent comedy boom, she’s got substance as well as style. Let’s just hope her next show has a bit more structure to back up both.
Review written by Sarah Sharp