Tuesday, July 5

Fern Brady – Unity Theatre

The energy buzzing around Unity Theatre last night was an indication that this was an audience ready to enjoy themselves, and they weren’t disappointed. Fern Brady knows her audience and gave them exactly what they wanted – a night full of gritty but good-humoured observations on this world we all live in.

If the aim of comedians is to present us with that world seen from a different angle, pointing out the inconsistencies and the absurdities in the quotidian, the surreal in the real, Fern Brady has a head start. Her recent diagnosis of autism has helped her understand why she has always felt that sense of not quite fitting in, of being on the outside. As she explains, the stage is the one place she feels she can be herself; it is her space, and there is no obligation to fit into anyone else’s idea of what’s acceptable. However, she deals with her diagnosis with a very light touch, as she switches from one subject to another in a glorious roller coaster of a show, with topics ranging from physical deterioration as she hits 35, a new found obsession with interior decorating, fat cats (literally), hotels, weddings, brain tumours and dementia, euthanasia, and communicating (or otherwise) with the dead. For each topic she touches, she makes the mundane laugh out loud funny.

At times, it seemed somewhat chaotic, but that suits her style of comedy far more than slick presentation and word-perfect delivery would have done. The comedy was raw and brutally honest, and the audience adored it. Indeed, Unity Theatre was an ideal venue for her show – allowing her to have a close interaction with the audience with whom she built up an instant rapport. Her willingness to engage on a personal level increased the sense of inclusion and community and of shared experiences – we’re all in this together, so we may as well enjoy ourselves and laugh at how daft some of it is. I laughed harder than I have done for a very long time.

Two added bonuses. First, the show was signed in BSL by Alan. I can’t think of anything more difficult than converting comedy to sign language, but for anyone who has done basic BSL, watching Alan sign Fern’s show is an excellent way to extend your vocabulary. True, finding the social situations in which that vocabulary would be appropriate might be slightly more of a challenge, but hopefully more comedians will see the importance of taking this step to include the deaf and hard of hearing. Second, a quick shout out to Peter Brush, Fern’s support act, whose self-deprecating humour and excellent comic timing went down a storm and provided the perfect warm up.

All in all, a savagely funny night out that’s not to be missed.

Reviewer: Johanna Roberts

Reviewed: 12th February 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★