Rachel Anderson needs to find a more balanced middle ground for her material. Too much of Birth Order is either disappointingly mundane or awkwardly provocative. The show begins with a couple of jokes from the latter category, including one gag about Katie Price’s son and another about John Leslie’s alleged sex-crimes. The lines aren’t bad, but Anderson doesn’t quite pull off the delivery when handling ‘edgier’ material, hindered by the bubbly Geordie stage presence she works so hard to establish. She’s far more successful when tackling safer topics; her well-written skit on the disappointments of life in Deptford is certainly chuckleworthy, if not exactly groundbreaking.
Tellingly, her funniest bits have nothing to do with the show’s central concept. The difference between older and younger siblings is a subject that could provide a rich vein for humour, but Anderson doesn’t succeed in mining it. Instead, she seems overly reliant on ‘found comedy’, quoting from various books on birth order, and later reading long chunks from a guide to kissing. Her selections were amusing, but more original input would have been welcome.
She also struggled to deal with audience interaction. When she announced, half-joking, that ‘there are more oldest children than any other birth order in the world,’ and one member of the audience cried out ‘what about younger children?’, the riff descended into dodgy mathematics and the joke died somewhere in the confusion. Anderson clearly has potential, but Birth Order had the feel of a 25-minute set stretched out into a 45-minute show, dragged down by its own filler. One to keep an eye out for next year.