After 2022’s hit show Transience – widely praised for a confidence beyond its debut trappings – Chloe Petts is back this Fringe with a newer, meaner show. If You Can’t Say Anything Nice is Petts’ supposed pressure-relief valve after trying and, by her own admission,”failing to single-handedly eliminate transphobia” last year. It’s also an effort to tackle her own internal binary, one comprising her “beautiful gentle queer” side and her more aggressive football-loving side (a Venn diagram with, she says, very little overlap).
Of course, for all the show’s posturing, Petts is still a demonstrably nice person – even if her opening crowd-work is performatively antagonistic. There’s compassion in her scrutiny of society, and in her untangling of what might be causing all her pent-up rage. And her stories unfurl with ease, proving once again that Petts is a gifted yarn-spinner, even in the guise of her supposedly angrier self.
The snag is that the set doesn’t ultimately pay off in the way its confident delivery might promise. There are some absolute dingers, joke-wise, and Petts’ command of the room is palpable, but If You Can’t Say Anything Nice builds only to the sum of its parts, and no further. Which is still no bad thing for a second go in Edinburgh, and a reassuring sign that the comic is ready to mix it up and explore new territory from a sturdy base of talent.