A muffragette is, according to Mary Bourke, a feminist, just without the toxic baggage of that word. That idea alone might be controversial if the show were intended for a crowd of feminists, but Bourke deliberately isn’t preaching to the choir – she aims to convert. A quick question at the start of her set established that pretty much every woman in the room under thirty considered themselves a feminist, but the rest were fair game to receive the ‘change-of-heart’ pillow, which Bourke uses to encourage her audience to accept her Muffragette’s Manifesto.
The Manifesto, recorded in the prim and proper voice of a 1940s BBC continuity announcer, provides a structure to the show, diverting Bourke from one issue – perhaps the hyper-sexualised images in magazines – to another. It keeps the show progressing nicely and provides a point of contrast to Bourke’s soft lilt, which can occasionally become so pleasant it’s difficult to comprehend the vitriol of her words. Certainly if she allows the energy to drop for a moment it can become a tad soporific, which is only a shame because the gags are spot on, with material on the Kardashians somehow finding a new depth in their unending shallows. A section which sees her husband take to the stage proves riotously funny without him uttering a word.
The set loses momentum a tad in a section on the funeral of the ferociously funny Granny Bourke, as an overlong story provides more to make you cry than make you laugh and the punchline comes too late to pick up the pace.
Interestingly, her show comes with a ‘Calm Down, Dear’ klaxon that sounds whenever she veers into feminism-sans-jokes. I say interesting simply because the only other gig I’ve seen employ the same idea was Nadia Kamil’s similarly feminist-themed show, also at Stand 4. Perhaps it’s a technique to keep those startled by feminism happy, but it sits uneasily alongside Bourke’s fearless confrontation of Twitter trolls and generally impressively unapologetic attitude.
Bourke is fantastically quick-witted and a pleasure to spend an hour with. Even if you go in an anti-feminist, you’ll come out a muffragette.