Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) is only spoken about briefly in Phoebe Robinson’s show Sorry, Harriet Tubman, but she still does better than most at the Edinburgh Fringe to incorporate the show’s title into the actual comedy set. Tubman was a civil rights activist who conducted rescue missions to free slaves, having been born into slavery and (to cut a long story short) escaping her masters herself.
Something like 150 years later, Robinson and her friends went to Manhattan to participate in a protest march. Having listened to a few speeches which they found motivational enough, they bailed out because of the stifling temperatures and went for brunch. Is that what her ancestors fought for? Well, actually, yes – the freedom to do things as well as the freedom not to do things.
But that isn’t the only example of relative weakness – she gets things delivered when it would have been quicker and cheaper to have just popped out to buy it, and then sits at home watching the tracker on the mobile app, wondering why on earth the delivery driver is taking a convoluted route.
There’s also a white British boyfriend to say much about – having been persuaded by him to let him move in with her, she now wonders if she’s been ‘colonised’. Her own attempt at a British accent was derided by the audience (personally, I’ve heard worse, and in plays where the accents were meant to be taken seriously, but that’s another story for another time). Nonetheless, she has a very relaxed manner, which easily appeals to the audience.
It’s not all about race, with her relationship framing most of her material. There’s more than a slight feeling of familiarity when she talks about the various habits and eccentricities that her other half has – in that regard, it’s no different than getting a new flatmate or a university student getting to know the others in their dormitory. When there are yet more details about her private life, it’s interesting enough, but hardly ground-breaking in terms of insight or perception.
Robinson is not below toilet humour, and she has an amusing tale about the night she was hosting Michelle Obama at a public event. It was one of those moments when she needed to go but circumstances made it impossible for her to excuse herself. Even the most intimate parts of her body are like an open book – proverbially speaking, of course. As there are many, many movies I’ve never seen out there, her systematic takedown of Kingsman: The Secret Service, starring Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson and Michael Caine may be familiar territory for some, but it had me in stitches. All in all, pretty good for an Edinburgh Fringe debut.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Star of hit podcast turned TV show 2 Dope Queens, best-selling author, actress and comedian Phoebe Robinson makes her UK stand-up debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August, with Sorry, Harriet Tubman.
Phoebe Robinson, like many black Americans, has a life that is light years away from her ancestors had to endure, and that’s in part, because of American heroes like escaped slave and freedom fighter Harriet Tubman. What Phoebe has done with freedom has mostly been… trash. From being a failed wannabe activist to using a food delivery app to pick up the morning after pill because she didn’t feel like getting out bed, she analyzes all the ways she has not lived up to the legacy of Harriet Tubman.
VENUE: Assembly George Square Studio Three (Venue 17), George Square, EH8 9LH
DATES: Monday 12th August – Sunday 25th August 2019