reviews and recommendations

Edinburgh Fringe – Evelyn Mok: Hymen Manoeuvre

Even though the title of Evelyn Mok’s latest show is Hymen Manoeuvre, she kicks it off with a warning to anyone in the audience who’s still not 100% sure what they’ve signed up for. “It’s going to get very intimate, just so you know.”

Born and raised in Sweden by a Chinese mother and Hong Kong Chinese father, Mok’s been dubbed ‘the Swedish Amy Schumer’. It’s a fair comparison, but only up to a point.

Although Schumer ticks more of conventional beauty’s boxes, neither of them totally conforms to the self-confidence crushing, and thigh gap-narrow, ideas about what women should look like to be considered sexually attractive.

Both are blunt, provocative and not afraid to get scatological. They’re also more than happy to delve into the emotionally, and physically, grubby side of sex.

But Mok’s brand of comedy sometimes strikes a more vulnerable, endearing and self-deprecating note than Schumer’s. And her focus is different.

She chooses to train her beady stand-up’s eye on identity, and the spot where racism, sexism and fatphobia overlap.

The story of how she lost her virginity as an adult is the peg on which she hangs most of her sharp observations about these issues.

It’s a graphic account of the event. So definitely not a goer for anyone who can’t handle a whole lot of detail-heavy chat about other people’s genitalia. (If there was a Fringe prize for the most synonyms for vagina used in a set, Mok’s would be a shoo-in. All the old favourites, and possibly some terms you’ve never heard of, are in there.)

Mok spends a fair amount of time lamenting her outsider status, and lambasting the kind of men who mistakenly assume she’s demure, submissive and exotic. But, that said, this more than just a navel-gazing pity party.

Her self-awareness means she doesn’t shy away from poking and prodding her privilege. Which she does by contrasting her life choices with the hardships her relatives had to endure.

And Mok isn’t afraid to poke and prod her audience, either.

As well as quizzing a couple of latecomers about the reason for their tardiness (in a friendly and curious way), she repeatedly shoots questions at a chap in the front row.

Thankfully he’s game, and doesn’t seem to resent being forced into playing a part in the proceedings.

Hymen Manoeuvre is, at times, brutal and shocking. But more often than not, it manages to be funny and insightful too.

Evelyn Mok: Hymen Manoeuvre is at the Pleasance Courtyard at 18:00 9th-27th (not 14th) August. For tickets and more information click here!