reviews and recommendations

Bethany Black: Unwinnable

Serving up a mix of observational comedy and personal anecdotes, Bethany Black opens her latest hour, Unwinnable, with the news that she’s recently been diagnosed with autism, ADHD and agoraphobia. Bethany hastens to reassure us that the show won’t have ‘a mawkish ending’. Keeping her promise, she spends only a brief part of her bulging set list examining what her diagnoses, as she approaches 40, mean to her. With her tongue firmly in her cheek, Bethany’s edgy brand of self-deprecating humour means no one is more critical of her actions than herself (except, perhaps, her mother).

2018 has also seen Bethany added to a national newspaper’s list of celebrities ‘flying the flag for the LGBT community’ and consider her a role model. It’s great but a long overdue acknowledgement, surely? Bethany happens to be a lesbian who’s been working the club circuit for nearly fifteen years and has openly discussed the fact that she’s transgender in previous shows. In Unwinnable, it’s barely a footnote. Understandably, Bethany doesn’t feel she needs to keep explaining her beginnings and sums up her POV with the pithy observation; ‘I was born a baby, not born a man.’ What an astute way of expressing the idea that the language used to cement cisgender and transgender stereotypes needs to change.

Bethany isn’t interested in focusing on a singular theme for the hour and she suggests that the ADHD is to blame for her leaping between topics. I’d argue that it’s because she’s a seasoned club comic with an ‘all killer no filler’ approach to stand-up. Although she’s covering weighty issues such as white privilege, terrorism, Incels (involuntarily celibate angry men), and TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) Bethany’s material comes in digestible chunks. The crowd would love to hear more of her take on each but she moves on before we’ve had a chance to consider our response. Bethany’s the sort of personable performer you wish you could have a drink with afterwards to finish the conversation. Bethany is keen to make clear that the subject and target of a joke are very different things, and that she believes comedy can be used to explore any subject. Using humour has always been her coping mechanism for dealing with the world, and long may she continue. Bethany may have called her show Unwinnable but, if you’re looking for a consistent laughter count this Fringe, you’re onto a winner with Bethany.

★★★★

Bethany Black: Unwinnable is at 15:30 at The Stand 2 until 26th August 2018. For tickets and more information click here!

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