Live Review: Holly Walsh, Soho Theatre

Holly Walsh

Holly Walsh’s show is called Never Had it, in honour of the fact that while some people – from Desmond Tutu to Barack Obama – have ‘it’, that special, cool X Factor, Walsh thinks she is seriously lacking in that department.

This is an ingeniously simple-to-grasp premise which allows the nerdy 34-year-old to talk about herself entertainly for an hour. It’s heavy of the self-deprecation but also heavy on the laughs. And while I say heavy Walsh also has a lightness of touch, springing punchlines on us when we least expect it, using, for example, subtle set-ups for call backs.

Walsh paints a picture of herself as the ultimate geek. The school swot who was more interested in the Duke of Edinburgh Award than boys, the ale-loving undergrad whose special interest was smutty monastic marginalia, cherubs with arrows up their arses, that sort of thing (I had a feeling I’ve seen another comic do this routine, but it is so unique I must have just seen Walsh do it elsewhere). 

There are some particularly well-crafted set-pieces. Onscreen footage comes in handy, most notably when she illustrates the different dating habits of Americans and the UK using sporting metaphors. Yanks use the baseball “first base” system, for Walsh it is a much more complex sporting event – one that involves a lot of wine, repressed emotion and awkwardness.  

The it factor is an intriguing one. How can Beyonce strut in and own a room while she can barely get noticed? There are some great stories here about feeling invisible at social events and particularly in restaurants. In fact a restaurant features heavily in the final story about a meal at a posh eaterie which is so spectacularly unusual it must surely be true. 

There is only really one flaw in this show. Walsh says she doesn’t have it, but she definitely does have it if it means the ability to keep an audience laughing non-stop for an hour. 

At Soho Theatre until April 18. Tickets here.

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