It always amazes me how someone can hold an audience’s attention for an hour with nothing but a microphone. No props, no projections, no songs – just the art of storytelling, with an opening that couldn’t possibly be more up-to-date, with a brief discussion of the FIFA Women’s World Cup final, which had taken place just hours before the gig I attended. Here was a Scottish comedian, at the Edinburgh Fringe, praising ‘the Lionesses’ (or is it just ‘Lionesses’? I feel, when it comes to sport, like the equivalent of an out-of-touch technophobe who talks about ‘the Facebook’) – she likes them, going against the stereotype of Scots supporting whatever side is playing against England.
I could count with just my forefinger the number of times I’ve been to Glasgow in my life, and as I stayed in the city centre when the area was gearing up for COP26 (that is, the twenty-sixth United Nations Climate Change Conference) I didn’t see any of the rough and rugged elements of life in Glasgow that have been, and still is, part and parcel of McCabe’s lived experience. In a very personal account, she starts at the beginning, when the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 was passed, in the year she was born. The new law decriminalised homosexual acts “provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of twenty-one years”.
There wasn’t a time when McCabe believed herself to be anything other than a lesbian, and having established quite how international the audience was, this determined the level of explanation involved as she went along. Her summary on BBC Television’s Antiques Roadshow, primarily given for members of the audience from outside the UK, was utterly hilarious – and utterly true. There were references to EastEnders and its first gay storyline (truncated, although McCabe doesn’t mention it, because the BBC were concerned about the introduction of Section 28 by the Conservative Government – and that’s why they swiftly took the characters off-air and then killed them off), and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
She’s also old enough to remember the days when ‘gay’ was a derogatory term, as in ‘that’s so gay’, and recollections of her time as the sole woman on a large construction site were very witty. The strongest punchlines were responded to by the audiences with applause, and there was never a dull moment in this dynamic and defiant tour de force.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Following a hugely successful tour of Scotland, ’Scottish national treasure’ (Metro) Susie McCabe brings her show Femme Fataiity to Edinburgh for this year’s Fringe.
With her remarkable and relatable storytelling, Susie explores womanhood and how she feels like a disappointment. She grew up surrounded by girls that didn’t look or behave at all like her and she has made countless, often hilarious attempts to fit in.
SUSIE MCCABE: Femme Fatality
Assembly, George Square, Studio Two
2-27 August 2023