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Comedy Fringe

Fringe 2022: Rosie Holt, ‘The Woman’s Hour’ Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When I think of Twitter, I think mainly about arguments between complete strangers, and politicians spouting rubbish, both groups making utter fools of themselves. For those of you not yet acquainted with Rosie Holt, she makes Twitter bearable; a satirical comedian who often succeeds in fooling people into thinking that she is an actual sitting Tory MP. She generally serves as a caricature of everything that is wrong with British politics, taking satire to its most extreme. So I was extremely excited to hear about her one-woman show at this year’s Fringe, but not so sure if the audience would get it, or whether they might be fooled too.

The show’s satirical nature was immediately established by Holt’s dramatic entrance as a Conservative MP. Coming into the small but packed room in Pleasance Attic, she entered to her own theme tune – Doja Cat’s Boss Bitch – dressed in a striking blue power suit, grinning and staring at the audience with uncomfortably soulless eyes and dancing in true Theresa May Dancing Queen fashion.

The entire show was so cleverly and intricately woven together, through Holt’s expansive catalogue of characters; the aforementioned MP, the female version of Russel Brand, and Liz Truss were my personal favourites. It was striking to see Holt’s portrayal of Truss as a woman with no thoughts, siding with whatever view is most popular, constantly thinking about cheese, particularly as we are currently in the midst of a leadership election. She provided an element of comedy that is certainly needed for such a dire topic, but at the same time I came away feeling angry that I felt the potential future Prime Minister, and the future of politics as a whole, to be so bleak and hopeless to the point where the only thing I felt I could do was laugh about it. Holt’s hilarious re-enactment of Kirstie Alsopp – who said that young people should stop paying for Netflix and buying lattes if they want to be able to afford to buy a house – was told through the medium of dance, as Holt flailed her limbs dramatically and threw herself across the stage, providing a much-needed contrast to other darker, more deliberate forms of satire.

We were constantly reminded of the real Rosie Holt, who came ‘out of character’ during transition scenes when changing costumes for the next character. She changed on stage (but only really changing one element of her costume at a time), whilst the audience heard voicemail messages from Holt’s mother and agent. I thought this was a really nice way to bring her characters together, rather than making them distinct from each other. Ultimately Holt’s characters each explored a different aspect of politics which allowed for a sense of comedy and general mockery, but when the characters are all brought together and placed in the context of our current politics it was actually pretty harrowing; these aren’t just characters, this is genuinely what Britain has become.

This show is the sharp injection of political satire that the Fringe needs, especially during a time when it feels like the whole world is falling apart. Holt’s exploration of cancel culture (which is determined to not really exist) was fascinating and ultimately reflected on the notion that cancel culture is often used to defend the right to free speech, which for the Tories realistically means the freedom to use hate speech.

I’m not entirely sure if the audience understood the satire, or realised that the show itself was satirical and not a real Tory MP appearing at the Fringe. There were several moments where the room was filled with awkward silence as Holt kept pushing a particular joke. This might be down to the fact that the venue was tiny and so any noise (and thus, no noise at all) was extremely noticeable. The audience consisted of people from all political backgrounds – Holt asked this question as a sort of ice-breaker at the beginning of the show – and whilst the majority had claimed to be left-wing, I was sat next to a particularly disgruntled right-wing man who didn’t laugh once. But to those of us who did understand, or those of us who actually knew what we were getting ourselves into, the show was genuinely brilliant.

Politics (and the taking the piss out of politics) will always have a place at the Fringe; in a sense, this kind of comedy almost acts as a protest, and brings together two aspects of life, the funny and the serious, to teach us really that it is necessary to be aware of both; so that we’re not ignorant of the serious injustices in our society, but also that we’re able to escape from this and not be constantly depressed by things that feel out of our control. This is what The Woman’s Hour captures, and Holt truly strikes the perfect balance.

Rosie Holt: The Woman’s Hour is at Pleasance Courtyard (The Attic) until August 29 at 18:00.

Image credit: permission granted by author, provided to The Student as press material.