A year ago, The Independent's Edinburgh Festival diary carried the story that the novelist A L Kennedy was starting to do stand-up. Twelve months on, it is something of a surprise to see the writer tackle an hour-long show.
The end result is a testimony to her hard work but also to just how difficult it is to do stand-up and for anyone to get thoughts off the page and onto the stage.
Coping admirably with the distraction of a BBC camera crew and reviewers at the first show of her run, Kennedy presents a coy, sometimes slightly tortured set. She starts with what she knows best - writing a novel - but urges others not to do it: "Get a hobby, binge drink or shoplift." I can't help but wonder what her die-hard literary fans will make of this. If the noise levels of those gathered are anything to go by, not too much. Perhaps they are bemused by their heroine later describing how she aroused a cat so much she had to jump away from it when its owners came back. If anyone thought that stand-up was too lowly a medium, then watching a person of obvious intellect struggle with it is a very good thing for the art.
From her opening preamble on the trials and tribulations of being a lonely 40-year-old novelist, she proceeds to a section about the abuse of language. For example, how "depleted uranium" is so friendly a term that it suggests that the resultant cancer might not be so bad. After all, she remarks, cancer "does bring a family together".
"Surgical strikes" by "smart bombs" get their just deserts from the novelist, too, and Kennedy returns to political themes throughout her set. However, a closing routine on the London bombings of last year and the contrast with the safety of the world leaders at the Gleneagles summit was undermined by her segueing into a routine about which limbs any prospective lover of hers could afford to lose without becoming redundant. It wasn't the connotation of bad taste that threw her off course, it was simply the fact that the routine was too long, too obvious and ultimately poor.
At times it feels like Kennedy is very much going the "school-of-Izzard route" - issuing forth non-sequitur adjectives to reinforce a point - but sometimes these are so out of place you can't even see the unconscious link. Holding the mic somewhat like a flute, Kennedy contorts her stories, and as her body ties itself in knots so does her material. But every once in a while out pops a sly remark, for example that she is "contractually obliged to mention smear tests", which points to the possibility that another year will bring greater progress and build on the basic skills that are in place.
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