Because You Demanded It
Bridget Christie: Mortal ★★★★1/2
Written by Steve Bennett in Chortle on August 14th, 2016
Those of us who voted Remain woke up on June 24 to confusion, anger and dread for the future. How could Britain have been so reckless to have thrown away so much on the blatant lies of careerist politicians exploiting the nastiest fear of ‘outsiders’? The world seemed to fall apart as the pound plummeted, those who urged us to vote Leave backed swiftly away from the chaos they instigated, and many of those who believed them expressed instant regret.
For most, those visceral feelings of betrayal and uncertainty have faded as normal life goes on, and there remains at least some hope that some good may come from the long withdrawal process. But for Bridget Christie none of the sucker-punch emotions of that morning have dimmed, compelling her to attack those who played poker with the nation’s future with the same righteous passion with which she previously took up the feminist cause.
It wasn’t meant to be this way. She’d written a show about mortality, but couldn’t ignore the seismic events that seem to have consumed her every waking thought ever since. That is why the title doesn’t match the subject, although the show will be called Because You Demanded It by the time it tours.
There’s a pretence that she tried to write about her love of gardening to try to take her mind off the disaster and stay happy, talking about the fuschia rather than the future. But her outrage gets the better of her, and this morphs into a smart metaphor about immigration that becomes funnier the more heavy-handed it gets.
Her rising rage fuels the wit throughout the show… In some ways it’s like Basil Fawlty attacking his car – the outburst is hilarious in itself as he loses decorum, but even more potent given the circumstances building up to that moment that pushed him to the brink. Bridget Christie is the Basil Fawlty du jour. If we’re still allowed to use French phrases.
Christie is in no doubt that the Leave vote was largely based on racism, cynically stoked by the politicians. Her terror at the rise in race-hate crimes and the parallels with the rise of Nazism is very real, yet she finds ways to attack issues on the edge of the story to find humour in this bleakness. Why, for instance, did the BBC interview a Leave voter with swastika tattoos and not mention it? Or why would anyone believe the Daily Mail’s scaremongering when they have such tenuous grip on the truth they can mistake a photograph of Christie dressed as Charles II, complete with drawn-on moustache, for a genuine image of the 17th Century monarch.
Often valid points are exaggerated to ludicrous extremes, while Brexit arguments are repeated with enraged irony. That said she has to add a coda to some of her more sarcastic rants: ‘I will say things today that I mean the opposite of.’ Sadly, such disclaimers seem to be increasingly common among comics afraid of being misconstrued, but that’s by-the-by.
Finding the funny in the periphery includes making light of her own intense reaction to the vote, in hope that even Leave voters can join in on that. Her inflamed response is couched in metaphor and mockery, and while she can do proper jokes, she seems embarrassed by them, giving an exaggerated manic laugh after the punchline to emphasise the absurdity of such a trivial construct as a pun in the midst of total social breakdown.
A couple of routines don’t quite fit the narrative. There’s a return to feminism with a despairing rant about labiaplasty and a story contrasting the confidence of a drunk man to the equivalent woman, which is rather unconvincingly attached to a plea to the BBC to show the same swagger in the face of bigotry. And in a remnant of the original show she talks about preparing her children for death, a perfectly understandable filler for a show written so quickly.
The rest of the hour , however, is an hilarious, heartfelt and on-point destruction of the political class, creeping anti-intellectualism and the casual acceptance of extremism. It might only appeal to 48 per cent of the population, but, boy, does that half need both cheering up, and someone to vocalise the frustrations and disbelief that this country has taken an irreversible step into the blackness. In that, you couldn’t hope for a more angrily eloquent mouthpiece than Christie.