When Bridget Christie won the Edinburgh Comedy Award Main Prize in 2013 for A Bic for Her, she became only the third female act ever to do so. Litres of ink were expended claiming a watershed moment for feminist comedy, with Adrienne Truscott also winning the Panel Prize for her show Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else! Of course it was great that these excellent shows were recognised. But that year there was only one other show by a woman nominated in any of the award categories. That woman was Aisling Bea with her show C’est la Bea – and last year the status quo was reinstated with three male winners and only three female nominees (not forgetting one member of Gein's Family Giftshop).
Bea’s follow up show, Plan Bea, is a recollection of how she came to be, where she feels she is, and the idea of shame as an inhibitor. Bea grew up in Kildare, raised on a healthy diet of Catholicism, shame tactics and a lot of American TV – primarily the exploits of Mitch and co. in Baywatch. She dreamed of being an actress but really just wanted to be an American. She achieved one of these goals by appearing in a pirate rock band’s music video as the token wench straight out of drama school. It wasn't quite what she'd hoped for. The shame she felt from such a starring role, the realisation of the hollow nature of "show business", and the side step into stand up (she refers to this as her "Plan B") form much of the show’s backbone.
In working her way through it, Bea works the crowd brilliantly. As the crowd’s energy is sapped by the sauna that is the Gilded Balloon Dining Room, Bea keeps her cool – hell, she's even written messages on paper plates to hand out to over-heated audience members for use as makeshift fans. Her ending, in which she owns her own shame by showing the pirate video to her captives, raises the roof.
Hoping to gain at least a Best Newcomer nod with her first hour-long show is Lolly Adefope’s show Lolly. Perfectly dissecting the open mic scene, she sketches a variety of performers from the community centre of an unnamed town – all hosted by hyper-confident Brummie Wendy Parks. She neatly fleshes out the various sadsacks and extroverts who litter the corridors of comedy clubs with big dreams and material thinner than gossamer. But she does so with a humanity and care not usually seen in a character comic.
In the end, the audience are asked to vote for a winner. It’s a difficult choice between 'girl-next-door-who-won’t-leave-you-alone’ Gemma; Horold (definitely not "Harold"), the down on his luck absentee father of John Legend; performer "X" who refuses gender and blames the government for everything – oh, and the stage-fright afflicted Lolly Adefope. The latter is certainly the winner on the night and may yet pick up more accolades come the end of the festival.
Massive Dad may have to wait for their time in the Comedy Award sun as their show clocks in at under the 50 minute cut-off point. Leaving the audience wanting more has never been a bad tactic and in their tremendously choreographed and inventive sketch show Massive Dad 2.0: Step Up 2 Massive Dad they most certainly do just that. Opening with a sketch that so perfectly parodies the way advertisements degrade women it should be shown in schools, they continue to skirt hot-button issues with a light touch and a subversive slant. It's tightly-written and exceptionally executed stuff and the trio of Stevie Martin, Tessa Coates and Liz Kingsman don’t fall into the easy groove of usual sketch dynamics, instead letting the scripts speak for themselves. The only problem is the shorter running time. After watching the group hit their stride, the abrupt ending is a disappointment. But as disappointments go, it’s not the worst.