Jan Ravens: Difficult Woman

Given the way that Jan Ravens effortlessly reels off her startling array of impressions it begs the question why it has taken so long for her to branch out on her own. This is her first Edinburgh solo show and it is a masterclass in biting satire, and comedy that deals with the more personal nature of being a 'woman of a certain age'.

A sell out tonight and I suspect that will be the case throughout its run

The show's title is inspired by Ken Clarke's waspish appraisal of the PM so it inevitably starts with Theresa May. The opening looks at the other difficult women in politics. The three female political leaders of Scotland get the Ravens treatment and her Diane Abbott is brilliant and a constant character that pops up during the performance.

As ever the impressions are spot on and for someone that has been primarily on radio you take for granted that this is a voice-based act. Visually she manages to capture the mannerisms of the people that she is sending up to good effect. I'm not sure I'll be able to look at Nicola Sturgeon again in the same way after tonight's performance.

The show doesn't just dwell on the political. The difficult women theme is broadened out in the middle part to deal with the difficulties of being a women of a certain age. This enables Ravens to run through her repertoire of impressions that are not just from the political sphere.

There's a lovely tribute in the middle of the show to one of the great stars that we lost in 2016. I won't spoil the surprise of who it is, you need to see that in person. It's very touching and heartfelt and if the audience weren't on her side at that point, well they were from then on in. The routine about her fantasy shags, being replaced by a collection of fantasy pallbearers was really good too. Again, I won't spoil the surprises here by naming names.

There is a great deal of empathy during this part of the show from the largely Radio Four friendly audience (this was confirmed by a call and response). Some may have been shocked by some of the words used tonight that may not have been used previously on that station. The strongest of swear words was used at the mention of Donald Trump, so that's alright.

As it is the early part of the run, there was a bit of self-editing going on during the show, but this will work itself out in the coming days. It highlights the wealth of material at her disposal. It is fair to say that the impressions are matched by the writing. The material hits home on a number of occasions and avoids the issues that some impressionists have with regards to being all about the impressions and forgetting to write a show.

It was a sell out tonight and I suspect that will be the case throughout its run. This is a show that needs to be seen. 

Reviews by Paul Clark

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

The Dead Ringers star in her much anticipated debut Edinburgh show. Ravens brilliantly observes an array of contemporary characters, including Theresa May and Diane Abbott. Razor-sharp satire delivered with startling virtuosity. 'Consummate impressionist' (Times).

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