What a ripper!
In her acclaimed debut show last year, Zoe Coombs Marr showed she was onto a winner with her character “Dave”, a sexist male stand-up with a few issues to deal with. It was a brilliant, stinging riposte to the misogyny of the Australian comedy circuit in which she cut her teeth. With her second show, she could have just repeated the trick and left it at that, relying on the strength of the idea. But instead, in Trigger Warning she builds and builds and takes it far beyond the original concept.
Looking back, Bridget Christie’s not dissimilar concepts of being an ant (or a horse) onstage telling jokes about gender, seems drab and one-dimensional. Watching Trigger Warning by comparison is like switching from mono to stereo. This year, Dave is a changed man. He has been getting some stick on Twitter for being a retrograde comedian, so has ditched his stand-up to do mime and clowning instead – in a comedy in-joke, he’s been to the Philipe Gaulier clowning school in Paris, where it seems half the Fringe brochure has gone. The few jokes that Dave does have in the show are flagged up at the beginning – the trigger warnings of the title – and that idea has a bigger comic payoff than I was expecting.
We are treated to the sight of Dave swimming through the room, eyes ablaze with delight. He sets about “discovering things in the space”. And yet, while Coombs Marr is a physical comedian of considerable skill, Dave is not. He can never shake his stand-up roots. The futility of his attempts to reject it is brilliantly portrayed by Coombs Marr.
And yet the show goes further, piling layer upon layer, including Coombs Marr coming out of character to reveal how Dave was conceived, so to speak. The show pushes meta comedy to its limit, and probably slightly beyond it. It is quite reliant on some pretty specific cultural references too – I admit that Maddy Ziegle was lost on me – so it can feel quite in-jokey. But I don’t think that detracts especially, as this is a powerhouse comic performance from Coombs Marr, and her show is funny, smart and timely.
Review by Paul Fleckney