Mary Bourke – Edinburgh Festival review

An hour of guarded, but sharp-tongued and smart stand-up from Mary Bourke


Softly spoken and smiling sweetly all the while, Mary Bourke promises to fuck our pain away with the golden dildo of joy. She’s dry, pithy and more than a little disenchanted with much of what she sees.

Her subjects are fair game – arrogant young comics from across the pond demanding a preshow announcement of all their achievements; the Mumsnet hordes swapping prissy messages of passive aggression and entitlement; humourless producers hacking away at scripts for the sake of PC. She recounts her ill-starred encounters with them all in the same unwavering dulcet voice – a voice, as she is well aware, that seems incongruous for the insults she’s packing.

She’s got a good handle on her punchlines, but my favourite parts of this show were the little notes of self-commentary and the wry nods to other comic techniques being flaunted elsewhere on the circuit. Her supposedly nonchalant list of Anglo-French words, brought up short by an admission of how long it took to compile the thing, seemed to poke a bit of fun not only at herself but also at the off-the-cuff intellectualism that seems to increasingly pervade more routines.

It never quite loosenes up into simple fun, however. For all her understated assertion, there’s a defensive undercurrent throughout – though this is unsurprising, given details of some of the nightmare gigs she recalls. Still, this reserve makes it difficult as an audience member to completely settle into her act. She’s very sharp, astutely funny, and engages with her audience throughout – this room, at least, was clearly very willing to put its trust in her. It never quite feels as if she’s ready to return the favour, though – despite all the rapport, it feels like her guard stays up.

3.5 stars

Mary Bourke – Hail Mary is on at the Stand III/IV at 4.40pm
Review written by Sarah Sharp

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