Who Am I?
Who Am I?, review: a sly, sparkling celebration of the menopause - ★★★★
This new show at the Leicester Square Theatre is yet another razor-sharp, consistently hilarious addition to Christie's CV
Written by Mark Monahan in The Telegraph on December 15th, 2021
While a half century is a cause for celebration in cricket, it can prove rather less so in life. Just ask Bridget Christie, the 2013 Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner, Radio 4 regular and occasional TV-show panellist whose notching up of five decades on Earth is the chief fuel for her new show, Who Am I?
After a quick acknowledgement of her first-night audience at the Leicester Square Theatre, sadly reduced by Covid-related fears (she impishly suggests that those of us who have rocked up were clearly all too happy not to see our families last Christmas), she gets stuck into the meat of the show: namely, the trials of being a 50-year-old menopausal woman and mother-of-two, particularly in a still phallocratic world. And, if age-related concerns are hardly ground-breaking as stand-up fodder – nor feminist ones, for Christie – they here drive a sparkling 80 minutes in which often familiar and/or below-the-waist topics are consistently elevated by the sharpenss of the writing, the beguiling, apparent stream-of-consciousness delivery, and the evergeen Christie charm.
With mock, theatrical outrage slyly cloaking the real thing (another time-honoured, extremely effective Christie device) she shares her unshakeable opinion that all women over 50 are in fact dead. They must be, she argues, so little do we see of them in films or on the telly. And as for women of this age being involved in sex scenes? Well, she says, that’s allowed only in books, “because you can’t see them”.
It’s lovely stuff – passionate and pointed, but also great fun, with Christie as often as not standing in her own crosshairs. Take one typically entertaining peregrination about a certain Phoebe Waller-Bridge who, in 2013, with a tiny show called Fleabag, had a (genuinely) far more modest Edinburgh Fringe success than Christie did. How not to love the latter’s ragingly sarcastic delight that, while she herself is now playing to a small, partially depleted theatre, PWB’s production company is worth £18 million?
Probably the weakest routines are two identically structured ones on our embattled Prime Minister, and the disgraced (but still hugely successful) US comic Louis CK. Although far from bad, these both lack inspiration, as if Christie is slightly coasting in anticipation of a liberal comedy audience’s knee-jerk antipathy to both men.
This matters little, however, especially when, post-interval, you realise what’s really going on in this show. For all the mentions of hot flushes, walking into rooms and forgetting why you’re there, repeatedly forgetting words and names (her Nick Fury skit is a particular highlight), it is in fact a celebration of where Christie is now. Vocally proud of how she looks, she also says she’s going to steer well clear of HRT, as she’d rather “snap in half from osteoporosis” than give up the new ballsiness that has come with her midlife hormone shift.
So intoxicating is this newfound “attitude” that it even, she maintains, allowed her to confront a man who flashed at her recently. Cue a prolonged passage on her exchange with him, along with an identically hysterical, marvellously physical spin-off – complete with merkin – on why women would make very poor flashers.
Did any of that encounter really happen? Who knows, or indeed cares? Like the vast majority of this expertly paced and structured set, it allows Christie to generate great big laughs while also making cast-iron-serious points about the male-female divide, and leaves you feeling incredibly glad that you braved the allegedly plague-ridden streets of central London to see her.
Who Am I? You’re one of this country’s most cherishable live comedians, that’s who. And as for my new dream comic double-act for 2022 – Phoebe Waller Bridget – well, hope springs eternal.