Ingrid Oliver: Speech!

★★★★
comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Ingrid Oliver
Published 14 Aug 2017

"It's okay to be middle of the road, this country produced Coldplay, we're good at it!" pleads Ingrid Oliver. I shan't spoil the shrewdly funny ways she arrives at this conclusion, because it's a journey worth taking yourself. With Speech!, she's produced that rare thing: a political show with a balanced, insightful message, expressed in an original and entertaining way.

These are simple adjectives for a complex, tightly-constructed show. Artfully woven between initially unrelated character monologues is a delicate reflection on the dangers of fundamentalism, at both ends of the spectrum. The roster includes a scathing pastiche of right-wing radio hosts (read: Katie Hopkins and Julia Hartley-Brewer), an EU breakup skit that's amongst the wittiest Brexit satire at the festival, and an ultra-hypocritical virtue signaller.

The personas, so briefly present on stage but indelible on your psyche, are portrayed with equal parts cynicism and sympathy. She's not villifying the archetypal culprits, be they offensive dogmatists or over-zealous censors of ideas. Nor is she condoning their intolerance. Her aim is to shine a light on the extremist tendencies that turn good-hearted people away from one another, and ultimately pull us apart.

She's assuaging the chaos and offering a notion of stability in increasingly unstable times. Or, at the very least, she's making us all laugh. Perhaps the scope of her targets is too vast to encompass and explore in just an hour, but there's no doubting that she makes her mark in the time she has. Speech should be free, but Speech! is well worth the entry price.