In recent times the truly aspirational comedian has relied not just on a handful of good jokes to get by, but some sense of narrative subversion woven within their material; that delicately balanced final rug-pull when you realise that what you’ve been listening to has been a story all along, and you’ve had a night in a theatre and a comedy club rolled into one.
That sense – for anyone who doesn’t know the backstory to Kiri Pritchard-McLean’s new show Victim, Complex, although the weight of that title suggests she had better not be messing around – is absent here for much of the early part of the set. Instead we have Pritchard-McLean, unmistakeable with streaked, coloured hair and a jury-rigged superhero costume, rolling into some frank stand-up about issues which many are able to relate to; her own self image in relation to other, supposedly better-looking people, for example, or her righteous anger at a woman who may or may not have been cheating with her boyfriend.
For this period of pure stand-up, Pritchard-McLean is very funny and incisive, creating a few-holds-barred sense of big night out entertainment which might – it’s hard not to make the association, given how her outfit appears to be styled – be perfect for a group out on a hen night. Yet based on where it goes, it’s hard to recommend this piece to anyone whose relationship is on their mind.
Those who read any deeper than the flyer blurb will know that Pritchard-McLean is recounting her own former relationship with a comedian (he’s also at the Fringe, with a show on the same subject), and as she journeys deeper into the rabbit hole of what happened, of his affair which she believed was real, and then believed was all in her mind, things take a turn for the literally dramatic.
There are more poignant and breath-sapping twists in this show than in most of the Fringe’s theatrical productions, and although Pritchard-McLean never loses her savagery with a sharp quip, her impassioned expose of the subject of gaslighting in a relationship can’t help but turn serious. Yet it’s never anything like self-indulgent; quite the contrary, the energy in the room when she says she knows it’s happened to many in her audience and we need to start talking about it is electrifying, and cathartic.
Pleasance Courtyard, until Monday 27 August; buy tickets here
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