Edinburgh Preview: Sarah Callaghan

Who says stand-up and poetry don’t go together? Sarah Callaghan was told it wouldn’t work, that it just wasn’t, well, fun enough. But, as she explained, after 8 years on the comedy scene, poetry has become her passion.

Sarah is quick-witted, funny, rude and frank

Sarah grew up in the 1990s where, she points out, there was less nuance or understanding, more judgement, perhaps; for example, there was no ‘gender neutral’ or ‘autistic’ rather just ‘lesbian’ and ‘dumb’. Black meant ‘scary’ and she, Sarah Callaghan, meant 'freak'. How we are judged is an important theme of the set, and indeed Sarah starts with a funny sequence about how she herself judges a person (note: soup on a first date with her is ill-advised). From being judged, the link is made with our need for a sense of belonging and approval and from this how we often become part of a gang, whether this is family or friends or groups, political or social or other, where we look for solace and acceptance. About family: pity the family, says Sarah, who bring their children, their mini gang-members, up so badly that they become Star Trek obsessives with bad trainers.

Sarah admits to having a difficult childhood and this is linked in with ideas about gangs and belonging and judgement. But it is important to stress that this is not turned-over in a mawkish or ‘poor me’ way; rather it creates a back-drop to the material. And the poems: there were five in all interspersed through the set, their content linked with its themes. The poems were robust and muscular with clever word gymnastics and flashes of humour and self-deprecation. Sarah’s delivery was sound and although it’s too easy and simplistic to make a connection to the work of Kate Tempest, it is likely people will. If this reviewer is completely honest, it wasn’t really her cup of tea. But it would be neglectful not to stress that the audience were very enthusiastic and highly appreciative.

Sarah is quick-witted, funny, rude and frank; and she’s fun to spend time with. Her physical comedy and use of space is done well. She has been told that that she shouldn’t mix poetry and comedy. She has been told by producers that they really like her but that she needs to tone down her material and soften her persona (as Sarah observes: ‘you don’t like what I say or who I am then.’). It doesn’t seem likely that she is going to listen to these judgements. Good.

Reviews by Jonna Brett

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The Blurb

Award-winning UK comedian Sarah Callaghan, fresh from hugely successful tours of Australia and New Zealand, returns to the Fringe with a powerhouse mash-up of comedy and poetry about gangs, fitting right in and feeling left out. Everyone seems to have a gang – her peers, family, politicians, terrorists. Where’s hers?