An intimate one-woman show about race and gender. Sounds about as typical of the Fringe as it gets, right? How is it possible, then, that Twayna Mayne is the only black female comedian at the festival? It’s her opening joke – and Mayne continues to make uncomfortable and deeply necessary observations about the lack of diversity in mainstream comedy and the overwhelming whiteness of her audiences throughout the show.
Mayne creates an uncomfortable but ultimately rewarding space.
This is Mayne’s debut show, unapologetically titled Black Girl. Her style is downbeat and casual, almost as if she doesn’t particularly care if the audience like her or not. Which makes her instantly likeable, of course. Her boldness is charming. Few comedians could get away with starting a show with an over-the-top diatribe about how awful Moroccan people are, but Mayne does, and has us hooked for the next hour. She gradually feeds us her back story – of a negligent birth mother, foster care, eventual adoption by white parents, struggles with black identity – drawing us further into an emotional connection, despite the awkwardness of the comedian-spectator set-up. Forcing us to be constantly aware of concepts of race and privilege, straightforwardly presenting her identity as a privileged black British woman, Mayne creates an uncomfortable but ultimately rewarding space.
Mayne sums up the ‘message’ of the show at length (for the benefit of her imaginary son Keith – don’t ask), but really, it was the slideshow of childhood photos shown right at the end that encapsulated the spirit of mischief and empathy at its heart. Touches like this elevated the show beyond stand-up. Bringing this show to the white, middle-class audiences of Edinburgh should be precisely what the Fringe is about.