Angela Barnes: You Can’t Take It With You

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (comedy): Angela Barnes: You Can’t Take It With You at Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33). Review by Jay Richardson.

Already established on Channel 4’s Stand Up For The Week, Angela Barnes makes an unlikely Fringe debutante; not least as this show feels like a sure-fire bet the instant she utters her opening lines.

A latecomer to comedy, the former social worker gives the impression of somebody who’s lived a bit; cynical and jaded but learning to swim at 37 and with her eyes wide open to the possibilities of Lidl’s magic middle aisles. She was inspired by her late father – a sex shop owner fond of a caravan and a prank – to seize the day; his motto was always “you can’t take it with you”. His family sought to prove him wrong, stuffing his coffin with sentimental keepsakes, and so Barnes is now asking nearest and dearest which objects they’d pass on with her.

A neat framing device to introduce her anecdotes, it never feels morbid because she’s such agreeable company, the lengthy gestation of her introductory Edinburgh bow ensuring that this is a set rammed with all of her best personal material to date. As the child of divorced parents, she hung out with her father a lot and clearly picked up his sense of mischief – though his appreciation of Status Quo, not so much. Single and defiant, she approaches dating like a no-strings hobby and seems to exist in a state of ongoing, simmering vexation with her married, child-rearing friends.

Amusing personal anecdotes segue smoothly into wider social observations, as when she follows through on Norman Tebbit’s objections to gay marriage by hilariously envisaging a far more progressive monarchy. Closing with an account of how she died (metaphorically) before an audience of 35,000, she draws together all that’s gone before in a nicely judged finale that softens some of her previous cutting sarcasm.

Until 24 August. Today 6pm, more info.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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