The new Claudia O’Doherty show is a slightly sarcastic version of what a breakthrough hit might be – and it deserves to be a breakthrough hit
The Australian creates comic worlds all of her own, a bit like the Mighty Boosh or Harry Hill, but perhaps even more charming. In Pioneer, she is doing her biggest piece yet in the cavern-esque converted-ish barn at the Pleasance Two. There is also a change in tone for 2013’s show, in which O’Doherty plays a delusional “Claudia O’Doherty”, determined to “entertain every single person in the world”, starting with us her Saturday night audience.
“Claudia” has accepted overbearing sponsorship from electronics firm Pioneer, which allows the show to use and to make fun of large audio-visual effects. This is probably the neatest way to square the step up from O’Doherty’s smaller shows, where everything seemed very much home-made, to a big venue with big set-pieces.
Of course, during the hour, cracks of self-doubt begin to appear in “O’Doherty”’s carapace self-belief. A satire about someone trying to make it in the crass world of showbiz might have floundered under meta “whatever”s, but the imagination at work here is too strong.
Most of the laughs come from the details of “O’Doherty”’s strange backstory and not-quite professionalism. It’s interesting to see this act from production company Invisible Dot play a more high-status character than we’ve seen before. Although that said, in some of her earlier work some of the fun came from passive-aggression in supposed utopias.
Ultimately, Pioneer is not as strange and beguiling as previous shows such as 2010’s sublime Monsters of the Deep, about an undersea research facility beset with a giant squid, but it feels a very minor quibble to say so when they’re both such fun.
Pioneer is a bit like a much-loved lo-fi band who have signed to a big label and been given a big-shot commercial producer to create a breakthrough hit, and who’ve responded by doing their slightly sarcastic idea of what a breakthrough hit would be, while at the same time still rather wanting a breakthrough hit.
Pioneer deserves to be a breakthrough hit, and fans can rejoice that it has pretty much everything they enjoyed previously also.
Review written by Sam Charles
• Claudia O’Doherty – Pioneer is at 9.50pm at Pleasance Courtyard