Jenny Bede is, so she claims, the first person in the world to have experienced the peculiar, life-changing ordeal that is having a baby. Luckily for us, this award-winning musical comedian is generous enough to share in the knowledge: from vaginas to piano practice, she’s got the ins and outs of motherhood covered in this whimsical show. Over the course of an hour, Bede sings, jokes, and shuffle-dances her way through the last 84 or 48 weeks of life with child, because what is motherhood if not a shift from year-long to week-based ageing. Satirical and self-aware, with a delightfully fiery bite, this show brings a distinctive flair to an age-old topic.
Walking into the small, dark room, covered in a luminescent pink dress, and armed with just her microphone, Bede brings an immediate, infectious, energy to the stage, launching into a mighty opening song which sets the pace for this comedy-filled spectacle. With a highly original, observational perspective and sharp satirical wit, Bede ridicules her fate as a “white woman with a buggy” in a lyrically brilliant number detailing the follies and eccentricities of new mothers with wheels. From here, she takes a chronological approach to her storytelling, mixing jokes about how a trial-puppy period led to pregnancy, with songs detailing the hilariously polite sex that made it possible. Elsewhere, she reveals how breastfeeding rekindled a lust for Aladdin, whilst at times producing some of the least sexy bedroom chatter of the century.
Performing alongside a pre-recorded vocals track, Bede managed to keep time with a well-rehearsed ease, aside from one ambitious bra-removal based trick which even a teenage boy might have managed more successfully. That said, the Lizzo based track exploring body confidence was well worth the temporary entrapment, and the flourish added by the carb-based handouts had the audience in stitches.
Rarely holding back, Bede performed a huge range of emotions, including a razor-sharp song-turned-rant about the things which made her angry throughout her pregnancy. Here, she includes a timely ode to the sacrifices and goodwill shown throughout lockdown, whilst powerfully calling out the vile leadership of governments partying whilst terrified new mothers held hour-old babies alone in hospitals.
Despite the show’s claim to the ultimate uniqueness of her experience, Bede weaves her performance with a piercing social commentary, all whilst packing it with every punchline conceivable. Mother or not, there’s something to laugh at for everyone in this one-woman triumph.
Jenny Bede: The First Pregnant Woman in the World is performing at Underbelly, Bristo Square – Clover August 9th-14th, 16th-29th.
Image: Matt Stronge, provided to The Student as a press image.