When Harriet Kemsley was young, she daydreamed about her perfect secluded hideaway, Honeysuckle Island, and her memories of that have inspired her latest stand-up show at the Monkey Barrel this Fringe. Kemsley describes the mixed-up mishmash of ideas that populated her island in the show, and that same confusing jumble of themes creates a set which is very much a mixed bag.
Her wit and charm are evident throughout
Harriet is an experienced performer: she has been a stand-up for 10 years and has some TV appearances under her belt; her delivery is assured and she clearly knows how to work the audience. When talking about her pregnancy and early experiences of motherhood, she produces a funny and charming narrative which brings the audience into her world and delivers plenty of laughs. The first half of the gig feels like a very well thought out set which is gag heavy and well-paced.
Roughly 30 minutes in, Harriet introduces the memory box from her childhood and tells us about Honeysuckle Island. From here onward the show starts to jump awkwardly in tone, shifting into and out of different topics quickly and without fully exploring them. The toxic effect of expectations around body image, climate change and the Venga Boys all make an appearance and Harriet appears to genuinely want to talk about each, but they are covered so quickly and the set moves on so sharply that the latter portion of the show becomes very disjointed.
It's clear from the show that Harriet has become passionate about new topics since becoming a mother, and it would have been great to hear more about how parenthood has affected her worldview, but instead we get a confusing muddle of ideas and topics which shift jarringly through the second half of the set and culminate with Harriet thrusting to the Venga Boys and discussing climate change.
The saving grace of this show is Harriet herself. Her wit and charm are evident throughout, her stories of pregnancy and childhood seem genuine and there are plenty of enjoyable jokes. And despite the jarring tonal shifts, you cannot deny that Harriet Kemsley is a confident performer who has delivered a show with plenty of gags that lives to satisfy the audience.