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Review of Mae Martin: Dope at Soho Theatre

Mae Martin: Dope
Mae Martin: Dope

Mae Martin possesses an endearing quality that makes her immediately likeable. Toronto-born-and-raised, Martin’s latest show Dope sketches the various obsessions she has experienced throughout her lifetime, from Bette Midler and stand-up comedy as a gawky pre-teen, to narcotics and love in her later years. A fairly hefty topic on paper, granted – but fortunately, Martin’s reserves of charisma, wise-cracks, and self-deprecating embellishments of her gangly teenage self, keep the audience from becoming maudlin.

Martin, now 30, claims to have been feeling ‘flat’ lately, she begins. Her mother (Wendy) puts forward a possible explanation: Martin has no current obsession, which, given Martin’s self-proclaimed addictive personality, means her inner ‘shrimp’ is asleep. The shrimp metaphor crops up repeatedly; Martin skilfully works images such as these into her set to the point where they become amusing shorthand later on. Awakening the shrimp is tantamount to the flood of dopamine in the brain that is experienced as a result of receiving (or thinking about) something pleasurable, she explains, and the continual reference to this dopamine cycle is what gives Martin’s show, at least in part, its name.

Martin is funny, there are no two ways about that. She’s also very good at thinking on her feet. But what is refreshing about Martin’s set is both her honesty, and also her message: we each of us have our obsessions, whether they be food, sex, exercise, or drugs. ‘Did you know we check our smartphones on average over 200 times a day?’ she asks, with genuine incredulity, pointing out the new obsession for millennials and the over 30s alike. As Martin guides us through her own obsessions – and subsequent drug abuse, as a result of hanging out with older people on the comedy circuit and trying to ‘be cool’ – she skilfully manages to strike the all-important balance between humour and gravitas.

Despite her set running slightly over, and thus rushing slightly to get through her material towards the end, Martin clearly enjoys herself stage, wryly highlighting the dopamine ‘buzz’ she gets whenever she receives a big laugh. As a seasoned performer already, Martin certainly has a long career ahead of her, and with such a varied and dark history, she could no doubt draw more material from her past to further illuminate and titillate the audience in equal measure. With Dope, what you see is what you get; Martin amuses and confides, and by the end of the evening, all you really want to do is sit down and re-watch Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus with your new found friend.

4 stars

Review by Amy Stow

The award-winning stand-up and star of BBC Radio Four’s Mae Martin’s Guide to 21st Century Sexuality presents her debut UK tour. Mae Martin is comedy’s most naturally charismatic young storyteller, fresh from sell-out seasons in Australia, Edinburgh and London.

In her new show Dope, she examines a lifetime of obsessions, fandom and addiction and shines a light on that one weird shrimp we all have in our brains that is happy to pursue short-term pleasure despite long-term consequences.

Age Recommendation: 16+
Running Time: Approx 60mins
Mon 18 – Sat 30 Sep 2017, 9.30pm
Soho Downstairs


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