Edinburgh Preview: The Women Set to Dominate The Edinburgh Fringe This Year

Edinburgh Preview: The Women Set to Dominate The Edinburgh Fringe This Year
Edinburgh Preview: The Women Set to Dominate The Edinburgh Fringe This Year
Edinburgh Preview: The Women Set to Dominate The Edinburgh Fringe This Year

I got into an interesting discussion last week when I reviewed new magic show The Illusionists and pointed out that the seven magicians were all male. The producers got in touch to explain that they want to cast women but there weren’t enough high quality female illusionists available for all their worldwide shows.

Comedy, on the other had doesn’t have this problem. I’ve just been going through the Edinburgh Fringe brochure looking for potential Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning shows and this year, more than ever, I think the list could be dominated by women. The Awards have a new sponsor this year – Dave. Sadly there isn’t a digital comedy TV channel called Davina yet. Maybe there should be.

So having looked at the hefty programme, who are the solo shows by women that stand out? There are so many names it’s hard to know where to begin (and sorry if I've missed you I'm sure you are also ace), but under A is a pretty good place. Maisie Adam has been doing really well in comedy competitions and won So You Think You’re Funny? In 2017. She is from Yorkshire, has funny bones and could easily be a main list contender in 2019. And talking of Adams, maybe this will be Jayde Adams' year. 

Moving to the letter B,  flame-haired Sara Barron (pictured) is back after picking up a Best Newcomer nomination last year. Barron is a spiky, feisty London-based American who basically takes no shit, but takes no shit in a hilarious way. She’s got a seen-it-done-it-worn-out-the-t-shirt attitude that should take her a long way.

Then there is Jen Brister, who has been around and bubbling under for a while but, as they say, seems to have found her voice recently. Motherhood in her forties has given her a fresh take on the world. She’s in a constant rage, part through sleep-deprivation, part through sheer attitude, and it makes for great comedy. She also has one of the best, most eye-catching posters at this year’s Fringe (pink picture, photo by Idil Sukan).

And look out for UK-based American comic Desiree Burch, the former dominatrix who is not short of forthright views on relationships and society. She is not so much a performer as a force of nature. When Burch speaks you listen. And, of course, laugh.

Oh, and did I mention Helen Bauer? She has not been doing stand-up for very long but is a potential Best Newcomer, with an oddball quirky personality and a sideways take on the world and relationships. 

From Australia there is Zoe Coombs Marr, whose previous ambitious shows have tackled gender, sexuality and political correctness in comedy among other things. After performing as a male comedian she is back as herself – well worth the ticket price with or without the fake beard. Though maybe she should have brought back her male comedian this year, given who the new Awards sponsor is. Her monstrous creation was called Dave.

Another newish comedian who has been making waves is Sophie Duker (pictured), who manages to bridge the gap between being outrageously funny and seriously political. Duker has a sharp take on what it is like to be young in the modern world and makes you think as well as giggle.

Two breakthrough acts from last year are also back. Sarah Keyworth and Catherine Bohart also happen to be real-life partners. Last year Keyworth picked up a Best Newcomer nod. Maybe this year Bohart will get on the main list.

Look out too for character clown Courtney Pauroso, who looks set to follow in the footsteps of Natalie Palamides with a provocative, in your face hour of genre-straddling performance that challenges while it entertains. 

What is particularly exciting is that a lot of the names above are relatively new. But there are also plenty of established names coming back to the Fringe. I said this piece was about solo shows but I cannot ignore Flo & Joan, whose infectious songs have divided fans but have won them huge audiences as well as that Nationwide ads slot. 

Maybe this will be Tiff Stevenson’s year. She has often been talked about as a Next Big Thing, and as one of the people behind London’s Old Rope club, she has helped countless other comics to nurture new material. And I’ll always find time to see Josie Long who has had a bit of maternity leave and is now back with a show in which she offers her characteristically passionate take on motherhood. 

And finally my last tip for a nomination this year has been my tip for a nomination for the last few years. It is absolutely insane that the brilliantly funny Suzi Ruffell has never had an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination. Maybe this will be the year that her fast-paced gift for a compellingly comic story will be recognised. Then again, she is already a TV show regular and playing to big live audiences. Maybe she doesn’t even need an award any more. But I’d personally love it if she won. Forget the shortage of female illusionists, Ruffell is pure comedy magic.

Click on the names above for ticket links to all of these shows.


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