Oxfam Presents… Stand Up for Women at Leicester Square Theatre
In celebration of International Women’s day yesterday, Leicester Square Theatre upended the typically male-centric comedy scene in dramatic style, with eight of the UK’s best comedians – who just so happen to be female. It was a cutting reminder of the talent amongst female comedians and subsequently the injustices of the testosterone-fuelled comedy circuit.
The evening’s content snaked flippantly between fist-in-the air feminism and absurd mundanity. Shrewd sparkling-wine-cradling Tiff Stevenson was the first to confront feminist issues, riffing on the phrase: “That’s just how it’s always been,” as a flimsy means of deflecting anything slightly alien, offering the suggestion that we should then all still be faeces-flinging apes, or cynical fish refusing to confront the land.
Abi Roberts progressed the gender politics with a performance as unpredictable as a discount fireworks multipack, culminating in a theatrical reading of Robin Thicke’s lyrics to Blurred Lines. The frenzied Luisa Omielan then cranked the girl-power to the next level with impassioned messages of body confidence (complemented by frequent skirt-lifting), to the point where comedy almost gave way to an incredibly off-beat TED Talk. Her promotion of terms such as “Pleasure Angel” and “Climax Fairy” in place of derogatory terms for female hedonism provided a memorable moment in the night’s proceedings.
Both resolute and hilarious in equal measures was Shazia Mirza, denigrating her Muslim Woman of the Year award as a gesture of the most patronising kind. Her act was followed by Mae Martin, who had the audience falling about the intimate theatre with her material on sexuality.
With a line-up full of sharp female comics and a 95% female audience, it took a brave man to show his face. Male audience members were repeatedly picked on throughout in a welcome redressing of balance. But for all the heavyweight material, the more inane gags were just as important. The evening was about showcasing talent as much as it was about dictating a message. The line-up was sandwiched by opener Pippa Evans’ Broadway musical-style rendition of an argument with a traffic warden, and closer Lou Sanders with her account of being at a party without a drink and thus not knowing what to do with her hands.
Queen of the frivolously inane however was Zoe Lyons. Among other oddball routines she explored the world of pigeons drunkenly losing their feet and the unnecessary act of bungee jumping to make you feel alive, when you can accidentally slip in the shower instead for a similar rush.
It would be nice to get to the stage where female comedians don’t have to talk about gender inequality during their routines, or even where such a line-up as this might occur without prescribing an all-female comedy event, but we’re still at the stage where women are merely token women amongst a line-up of men. Nights such as this serve to reinstate the standard of female comedians today, and we ain’t faeces-flinging apes no more. It’s time that “the way it’s always been” is “the way it always was”.