Sophie Willan: On Record

Sophie Willan is rebellious, defiant and rude.

Willan’s comedic style is full of honesty and warmth, making her a very likeable performer to watch.

So declared the social workers, teachers and disgruntled school parents who came into contact with Willan over the course of her turbulent youth. And she’s got it all in writing. Having spent her childhood in and out of the care system, Willan’s early years have been laboriously recorded from (pretty much) day one; so that when the state unexpectedly gave her her files at the age of 23, she realised she’d basically had a reviewer present at every juncture of her life. In this, her Edinburgh debut, Willan uses the content of these files to explore who she is now – and to reclaim the labels they gave her.

The premise is an interesting one but Willan fails to exploit it fully. The show’s opening, as with the show as a whole, is energetic, but it is also meandering. Some choppy changes of direction mean that Willan does not get to the main meat of her show quickly enough, and when she does the document extracts shown on the screen behind her are merely read out – mentioned but not analysed or dissected. They punctuate the stand-up as reference points but do not guide or structure the show, leaving it lacking a sense of cohesion.

There is plenty of quality material amongst the jumble however. Willan’s account of Klaus the disabled chicken, whose farmyard plight prompted her political awakening, is especially funny; as is the account of a her mother’s impromptu and vehement performance of Philip Larken’s This Be The Verse during a discussion about whether or not to have creme brûlée while at lunch with her grandmother.

Willan’s comedic style is full of honesty and warmth, making her a very likeable performer to watch. The show’s political undercurrents and the surprising lightness with which she treats these are full of potential, but a lack of focus leaves this area feeling under-plumbed.

Nevertheless Willan’s unwavering dynamism leaves you in agreement with her social workers of years gone by. She is rebellious, defiant and rude. But afterall, as she herself says, rudeness is really just honesty, isn’t it?

Reviews by Iona Gaskell

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The Blurb

Sophie Willan grew up in and out of care. At 23, the state unexpectedly delivered all of her personal files. In her highly anticipated debut stand-up comedy show, this very special rising star explores who she is today through the eyes of the numerous experts that assessed her growing up. A totally authentic comic voice that exudes northern charm. Expect brutal honesty and glorious unpredictability. Magners New Act of the Year winner. Amused Moose Laugh Off finalist. 'A bright emerging star' (BBC Comedy). 'Vivid, gripping and very funny' ( Developed with The Lowry Theatre.

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