Graínne Maguire is a pretty cool woman, and once trended worldwide for tweeting the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) updates on her menstrual cycle. The laughs may not come thick and fast in her latest show, but Maguire’s tight structure and impressive subject matter meant there was much to be enjoyed.
Maguire’s stand-up is the kind that you can turn over in your mind long after the hour is up.
On the basis of gags along Maguire didn’t set the room on fire, but the show is much more than the sum of its parts. Her theme was the difference between reality and the stories we tell ourselves on a national and personal level, and although the early explanatory sections provided a brief lull in the show, the topic yielded rich results. Maguire took a scalpel to her own relationship history, explaining how each couple has a story they tell themselves to mask the less-appealing truth.
Difficult topics were approached – she asked herself when treated badly by her partner how far you should make allowances for mental illness or if he should accept partial responsibility – but unlike other stand-ups, the subject wasn’t brought up for some risqué taboo smashing but because it was important. Despite perhaps sacrificing the electric atmosphere rapid-fire one-liners can bring to a comedy gig, it was actually refreshing that a lot of the time Maguire was making some fairly serious points, with some jokes thrown in to lighten the mood.
Maguire’s delivery was refreshingly un-performative: rather than adopting a confident stage persona it felt like she was just being herself. As we learnt more about her life and idiosyncratic personality it was difficult not to like her, particularly in light of details like how she visits museums at moments of personal crisis because they’re neat stories with beginnings, middles and ends. Instead of skipping from anecdote to anecdote, all of Maguire’s stories fed back into her central theme and illustrated the points she wanted to make.
Despite not being a fan of all Maguire’s jokes, none of them could be said to fall flat. Part of the reason we weren’t laughing all of the time is that some of the gags were more clever than funny. Those after instant gratification may be better off looking elsewhere, but Maguire’s stand-up is the kind that you can turn over in your mind long after the hour is up.