Company: Gilded Balloon Productions
Venue: Gilded Balloon – Dining Room
Date: 24 Aug ’07
I was going to go and see Stewart Lee, but the Udderbelly weren’t going to release any more tickets until half an hour before the show, which I couldn’t be arsed with. If I am organised enough to sort myself out in advance, I don’t want to be penalised by the venue just so some random punters can roll up on the spur of the moment. So I decided to go see Rhona Cameron instead. That’ll teach them. I haven’t subsequently seen Lee’s show, so I can’t say whether that was a sound decision or not.
But enough about that. Cameron’s venue was really pretty hot and humid, which was a shame. It was also noticeable walking in that she had a markedly more homogenous audience, or at least, an audience made up consistently of two homogenous groups: lesbians, and people generally a bit more middle aged than your average Fringe audience. I don’t know if the latter is significant. The former certainly is. Cameron explained that as a lesbian, she has frequently read that her material contains a lot of stuff about being a lesbian, even when it didn’t, so she thought she might as well put some in. In no way did that really alienate the rest of us, though, and much of it was very funny and accessible to the uninitiated (for instance, her observation that lesbians collect ex-girlfriends as parts of their lives, and that the obvious rows of lesbians in the audience probably all had one woman in common, was instantly understandable).
This was also, I would argue, her better material. The rest of her set was composed mostly of some pretty standard seeming stuff: nut allergies and excessive health warnings surrounding them, flip flops, shops where the music is too loud, voice recognition technology on the phone, and fair trade – at times, some of this material felt, for me, to be playing to a slightly mean, whingeing old git demographic in her audience (now you see why I wondered about the significance of the other half of Cameron’s audience).
I found it revealing that amongst the funniest material was an apparent surreal improvisation at the beginning, off the back of the ubiquitous “chat to the front row of the audience” bit. To my mind, Cameron is a naturally very funny person, and has it in her to perform stand-up very well. It was all the more disappointing, therefore, that some of the material just felt, well, cynical, and intended for an audience who wasn’t me. No, I don’t find the embarrassment of saying “no, I don’t want Fair Trade” in Starbucks such a massive problem, mainly because I wouldn’t ever do so. No, I don’t think nut allergies are fictional, and yes I have met someone with one, and yes, I do know of an incident where nuts have found their way into a foodstuff where they weren’t meant to be. When you find yourself sat in a comic’s audience thinking this kind of thing to yourself, it’s not actually all that heartening that you are surrounded by people laughing their nuts off.
So Cameron: yes; cynical demographically targeted material: no. Alternatively, that may actually represent the most interesting material Cameron could come up with, in which case she is a much more banal person than she seems.