Bridget Christie: What Now? ★★★★
Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Brighton Dome
Written by Steve Bennett in Chortle on May 21st, 2018
For years Bridget Christie was railing against the patriarchy at the vanguard of a new wave of feminist comedy – a stance she now ironically portrays as a career-boosting fraud. Then she savaged Brexit, in an angry, urgent show born out of the white heat of rage she felt after the referendum.
Now that political mess grinds on, there’s more confusion to her anger, making What Now? a more wide-ranging, less focussed, show than her previous diatribes. And not just politically wider, since she injects more musings on her home life into the mix, too.
Meanwhile, the elements of self-parody, as an archetypal bleeding-heart liberal from the cosy middle classes, are emphasised ever more boldy than before, and come right to the fore.
The refrain is that she should have it little to complain about, as a heterosexual, able-bodied, privileged white woman with such comforts as remote-controlled lighting in her garden, which is in the North London heartland of the metropolitan elite. But the state of the world still makes her anxious and paranoid.
She’s left wondering how British politics became so rudderless, baffled as to how people could vote for a compulsive liar like Donald Trump, and disoriented by finding herself aligned with historic political enemies on our withdrawal from the EU.
Christie makes links between the global meltdown and her home life, most notably in her section about being on the losing side in the war on truth. She puts Trump’s flagrant, incessant dishonesty on a par with her seven-year-old daughter’s fibs, defying bald evidence out of sheer petulance. Only difference is we are not sending Christie Jr to negotiate with dangerous dictators with a nuclear arsenal.
The comedian also pictures herself downloading her fears on to her children, making hem, concerned then scared as she rages not only against the empty consumerism of Valentine’s Day but also the mental toll it takes on the lonely. She teases herself for being such a buzzkill, that’s where the leavening relief of comedy comes in, but what she’s speaking about demands discussion.
She cannot help but get animated about the world’s predicament. Very animated, in fact, strutting and stomping across the stage in exaggerated pantomime, folding her body double as the furious sarcasm takes hold. She’s playing bigger rooms now that she needs bigger gestures, and has harnessed her physicality to do so.
Some sections come entirely from reflections on her personal situation, such as a wry, embittered parody of the day-to-day domestic tedium of a long-term relationship, played out in forensic mundanity. But be in no doubt, What Now? remains a strongly political show.
Christie is driven primarily by a desire to get her opinion across, as the occasional ovation her equally left-leaning audience give her for a point well made attests.
She unleashes diatribes on such issues as the everyday sexism eroding women’s confidence in workplaces globally, Vladimir Putin’s psychopathically cold-blooded realpolitik, and Theresa May’s weird mouth. The routines may be cushioned in heavy sarcasm, or lightened with a payoff mocking her vehemence, but the point-making comes first.
The lack of a sharp single narrative cannot help but soften the impact of her opinion, as, too, does the size of venue now her reputation’s spreading, which dissipates her intensity. And if you bristle at the idea of comedy that preaches, Christie is not the ticket for you, however much she mocks her own predilection for haranguing others, even her own children.
But that intensity is her essence, parodied and exploited in equal measure to create routines that are informed, urgent, passionate and uniquely absurd.