Gilded Balloon – The Wee Room (Venue 14)
Aug 3rd to 29th (not 15th)
I want to take Diane Spencer out for a bottle of Pinot Noir – she is a beautiful, ginger lady (with amazing hair and handmade pants) who I imagine guns full-throttle for you when your guy is a total shit-head, and is crude enough when the bottle is empty that you end up giggling the whole way home. This genuinely personable disposition really comes across in her show and makes it difficult not to warm to her.
Spencer is a Fringe veteran and this, her seventh show sees her move from a comedian whose “exquisite bad taste” nearly got her arrested in Bahrain to being a SMILF (add “Step” to the well-known acronym) after marriage saw her inherit two daughters, and a mid-30s desire to start sewing. This peculiar situation she found herself in should have formed the basis of her show, but instead the first section focuses on reflections on how funny her parents are in a set-piece that seems to hinge on delivering a Madeline McCann joke that seems as irrelevant now as it would have five years ago.
Disastrous lapses in judgement like this – a similar misfire about Bangladeshi sweatshops in an otherwise expedient observation about failing to understand why youth fashion is obsessed with pre-ripped clothes – slightly spoil some genuinely funny moments. Spencer’s description of failing to inspire children by hanging upside down and showing butt crack on a climbing frame is hilarious, and every appearance of her blunt Russian “friend” provides laughs that suggest this character could almost have a show of her own.
There is a difference between bad taste and dark humour, and Spencer could really shine if she realised she is at her funniest when she uncovers the darkness found in everyday life. She revels when physically describing a diet drug that makes you leak shit everywhere. The cringe is visible when she perfectly describes how she ruined the most romantic moment of her life through her own personality. The funniest idea of the whole show – shoving step-kids down hills in supermarket trolleys as they’re only “test children” for step-parents – could have been developed much further for dark comic laughs.
Perhaps this show is Spencer trying to work out how she fits in as a mid-30s step-mum, but the abrupt tonal shifts made this a show that wasn’t clear what it wanted to be. Despite this, Spencer’s warm and personal delivery, as well as a (disappointingly few) clever present day observations, still made this an enjoyable show. The feeling is that it could just have been so much better.