'I got a lot of money from the electronics company Pioneer to put on a massive show!' shouts Claudia O'Doherty, as the word 'Pioneer' rises from screens both behind and in front of her. In her follow-up to last year's Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated 'Difficult Theatre' extravaganza The Telescope, everything O'Doherty says feels like it should have an exclamation mark after it. This time, O'Doherty seems to have left the serious stuff behind her and is on a mission, she says, to entertain every last person on this planet, starting with us.
Pioneer is a little more loosely structured than O'Doherty's past shows, with a few through-lines tying the piece together. One of these is concerned with the apparent sponsorship deal with Pioneer, which defines the show's aesthetic; another is made up of O'Doherty's disparaging remarks about her 'current boyfriend' – a series of asides with a very satisfying twist towards the show's ending; and another concentrates on her attitude towards her own personal failures. These things link together well and, if Pioneer lacks greater complexity of former shows, it makes up for it in one key way: it's bigger.
The huge projection screens, the lights, the pounding dance music: the obnoxiousness of O'Doherty's on-stage character is given full reign to try whatever gimmick she thinks will impress us – or wherever her own needs and insecurities take her. This style only really has one setting - loud - and disallows for any real variety or change in texture. Yet, everything is a piece of a psychological puzzle that tells us a little bit about O'Doherty's comedic persona. As weird as it gets – and believe me, it gets weird – we can always see how this character thinks: her surreal logic and secret desperation for the world's approval.
The laughter that Claudia O'Doherty creates seems to come out of a different part of my face than the laughter created by other comedians. It surprises me and catches somewhere between my nose and my throat. I can do two lines with only a smile, and then a third will have me laughing for minutes. She herself is a pioneer, charting new territory in character comedy. Where she will take this character next - especially now her growing audience must begin to impact on the sense of failure that's currently integral to the role - will be very interesting. Her dream of entertaining every last person on the planet must surely soon be in reach.