It has only been five years since Janine Harouni took up stand-up comedy, and four since her first solo hour at the Fringe. It’s taken her until now to return with a much-anticipated follow-up to the hit debut – Stand Up With Janine Harouni (Please Stay Seated) – which secured her a Best Newcomer nomination in 2019 but, to be fair, she has been busy.
Newly married and eight months pregnant, it makes sense that Harouni’s sophomore hour Man’oushe, named so after a childhood nickname coined by her Lebanese grandmother, revolves around themes of family, heritage and impending motherhood. It’s a polished and sophisticated show which betrays none of her relative newness, instead taking audiences on a well-structured and rewarding journey through Harouni’s family history and her own path to parenthood.
Harouni’s comedy is warm but biting, with gags about abortion limits and the brutality of maternity and labour packing an extra punch when delivered by such a heavily pregnant woman. While slick and serene to the end, Harouni is quick-witted and often cynical – but she is also unafraid of sentimentality and tenderness, lending Man’oushe a rich texture and a moving pay-off. She will reach full-term before the end of this Fringe run, she tells the crowd – potential audiences could do worse than rushing to see her first.