Comedy review: Sarah Callaghan: Elephant
Comedy review: Sarah Callaghan: Elephant

Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Sarah Callaghan: Elephant, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jay Richardson. ★★★★ Having previously dismissed Sarah Callaghan as a force of personality over substance, I’ve had a complete volte-face after this fiercely impressive and quite stunning debut hour. Strikingly assured, Elephant feels like the emergence of a future star and it’s anything …

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Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Sarah Callaghan: Elephant, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jay Richardson.

★★★★

Having previously dismissed Sarah Callaghan as a force of personality over substance, I’ve had a complete volte-face after this fiercely impressive and quite stunning debut hour.

Strikingly assured, Elephant feels like the emergence of a future star and it’s anything but tentative.

Typically ambitious, at least in declaring it, she welcomes you to her room as if it were her own, a tiny, holding cell box room beneath the Heathrow flight path, where she feels trapped by her circumstances, desperate to escape. If the scene-setting is painstakingly deliberate, it doesn’t feel heavy-handed as she evokes her limited horizons in Uxbridge with clarity, wit and a tough, unsparing authenticity that’s as natural as her stage presence.

Contemptuous of her contemporaries, settling for a cycle of sex, babies and council house applications, at 23 she wants more and will do what’s required to break out – even emulating hubristic comic Richard Blackwood if that’s what’s needed, because you’ve got to dare to dream.

Augmenting the credibly bleak existence she so vividly conveys, she has lines that approach the pinnacle of joke-writing, her trainer fetish inspiring several. And they arrive unforced from a charismatic discourse, her confidence, insecurities and self-awareness imparted with subtle facial tension and precisely modulated flashes of anger. Callaghan’s drive to share is aggressively forward but never so tunnel vision that she can’t respond to, and be playful with, the audience, claiming solidarity with pensioners as she rails against the privileged 27-45-year-old demographic.

Her elephant metaphor is rather overplayed, certainly at the start. And there’s a simulated psychologist session that doesn’t add much. But these are quibbles for a densely funny show that’s poised and articulate in its class commentary and a bracing revelation in its personal disclosure from an under-represented voice in stand-up.

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 30 August / listings

Published in The Scotsman on 26 August 2015

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