Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Sarah Franken: Who Keeps Making All These People?, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jay Richardson.
Causing a minor stir in the comedy world, the performer previously known as Will Franken recently announced herself as a transgender woman. For anyone, this would be significant. But for a character comic of the American’s abilities, so accomplished at morphing from one persona to another, there’s additional prurient interest.
Addressing these issues at the top of the show, Sarah offers a couple of insights into the typical reactions she’s received since her transition, stressing that her new look is not one of her characters, nor will this be “a brave, coming out story”.
That’s not strictly true though, as rather than simply being a necessary bit of admin, the preamble sets the mood for a meditation on the limits of tolerance and a powerful declaration of the primacy of freedom of expression, not always the most fashionable view at a liberal arts festival.
Though as dazzlingly chameleonic as ever, Franken’s colours are nailed firmly to the mast on this, and she even dedicates her performance to free speech at the end, a rare forthright statement of intent from an act usually sylph-like in subtlety. Here, she envisions an Isis training camp with sensitive Muslims contemplating the supposedly progressive arc of their Edinburgh Fringe hours, a disgusted drill sergeant accusing them of effeminacy with American macho bullishness.
Sexual roleplay takes a catoonish kink, a post-op transwoman gets a sad surprise and Simon Schama struggles with gender pronouns while fielding questions from a rapaciously curious audience. Elsewhere, God is pitched against psychiatrist and the lunatic clown that’s dogged Franken is introduced; The Sopranos debate faggot-bashing, militant feminists howl and BBC Scotland grapples with the rights of misogynists, rapists and child mutilators.
Rich and topical, opinionated yet artful, messy but with an underlying coherence, even Franken momentarily losing her thread and confessing to bi-polarity can’t undermine this startlingly funny, memorable hour.
The Stand Comedy Club 5 & 6 (Venue 319) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 17 August 2015
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