Tessa Coates: Primates

Putting on a Fringe show is, for any performer, a risky endeavour. Costing almost a year’s supply of time and money, taking chances with the cumulative creative effort of months of work is perhaps something that shouldn’t be accepted or required to create a great Fringe show. However, it is disappointing to see someone inherently funny, with an original comic style and unique sense of humour, evidently pull back from their own strengths in favour of likeability. That is unfortunately the case with Tessa Coates’ debut solo hour, Primates, a show which does its best to hide so much of its performer’s potential.

Coates has many great shows in her, but Primates isn’t quite one of them.

Ostensibly, Primates is about anthropology. The high points of the show feature Coates combining her wealth of knowledge of human and animal biology with anecdotes and pithy observations. This combination is regularly mined over the course of the hour, often to great effect. The round of applause she receives for a routine comparing the evolution of man to a bog standard house party is undoubtedly well-deserved. However, the quality of these observations vary greatly, so when Tessa pulls back from the more absurd elements of her comedy her routines become far less effective and more pedestrian. Any comedian who still feels it necessary in 2017 to point out that Tinder isn’t the most delicate way of meeting a partner surely isn’t going far enough to find their material.

Yet it feels unfair to criticise Coates for her material when she is clearly such a talented comedian and charismatic stage presence. She is evidently enjoying herself onstage most when she allows flights of fancy to take over for the plain anecdotal material and her seeming penchant for surreal imagery and physical humour shines even underneath another joke about being single at your friend’s wedding.

Coates has many great shows in her, but Primates isn’t quite one of them. It instead falls at the same fence that trips up a lot of Fringe performers making the bold step to doing their debut show in a major venue. It is inoffensive and happy to keep in the middle of the road. When she is willing to take more risks and exploit her surreal, unhinged niche she will undoubtedly thrive, but for the time being Tessa Coates the stand-up comedian has yet to fully evolve.

Reviews by Charlie Ralph

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The Blurb

One third of Massive Dad – 'Hilarious' **** (Guardian) – Tessa has an absolutely useless degree in Anthropology and some very big questions about how we got here. Her debut show combines character and story-telling with very intense academic research. Which is surely what everyone wants from their comedy. Tessa has appeared on Newsjack, Comic Relief, Sky Arts, BBC Three, @elevenish, Comedy Central and BBC Radio 4, and she’d very much like you to come and hang out with her. 'I love Tessa Coates' (Caitlin Moran).