Tiff Stevenson starts out with the ‘menstrual stuff’, and immediately challenges a male punter’s appreciation thereof. Female comics are still a minority, which affords them an opportunity that Stevenson seizes in this progressive, angry and hilarious new hour.
It’s either proud or mad, either girl power or suicidal, but always worth hearing.
Stevenson is clearly absorbed by the plight of the modern woman, and the plight of the world, and it shows in her material. Identity politics, doing makeup on the tube and gendered marketing are topics, broken up by swipes at Theresa May and Donald Trump, because it is a stand-up show in 2017. The political jokes are hit-and-miss, as some of the things she wants to say have been said before, repeatedly, to huge TV audiences. Stevenson succeeds when she takes a uniquely British approach to the American political landscape, and a working-class approach to the British one.
Then there’s the anger. The stand-up’s microphone has always been a kind of soapbox, and Stevenson projects her rage at the world into her set. The laughs stop, but never for too long, and she gets very real about what current events say about us. She’ll go back to the fun parts, which are about smiling at the way the world is messed up, and then bam! Did you forget? Everything is terrible.
Instead of having a through line or running narrative, Stevenson depends on a number of smaller callbacks to separate her hour-long show from several sets stitched together Human Centipede style. Stevenson’s confidence in this loose structure really demonstrates her intelligence as a comic. Well, that and the way she delves into the contradictions of her left-leaning psychology. Though Tory voters won’t have a great time at Bombshell (this applies to many Fringe shows), it is the intolerant arm of the left that catches her particular ire, including herself. The best part of the show involves her examining her own prejudice in a situation that is smile inducing and a little bit ridiculous, and yet her eyes are hardened as she questions the purity of her own motivations.
Early in the set, Stevenson describes herself as swinging between “Sylvia Plath and Beyoncé”. It’s a fitting description for Bombshell: it’s either proud or mad, either girl power or suicidal, but always worth hearing.