Review: Joanna Neary: Wasp in a Cardigan

Highly watchable and frequently unhinged, Joanna Neary returns on blistering form

comedy review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 09 Aug 2022
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Fest magazine

Joanna Neary's latest highly watchable, frequently unhinged character comedy show was intended to be about marriage. And although it's changed somewhat since she originally conceived it she says, that remains the predominant theme. The presence of her young son in her front row on successive days because she can't afford childcare only underscores what a simmeringly angry hour this is, a repressed feminist fume at oblivious and unlistening men.

Framed with some flim-flam about a fundraiser for a church roof, the show has plenty of Neary's preoccupation with bygone, politely spiteful Middle England – still very much alive in the comedian's failure to ingratiate herself with her local Women's Institute, who struggle to process the idea of self-employed females.

The show is hosted by her flappable, always amusing take on Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter, beset by but romantically intrigued by the double glazing salesmanship of Rishi Sunak, even as her husband Fred discovers the oppressive realities of polygamy in puppet form.

Neary punctuates the hour with voicemails from her agent, relating the latest dowdy mother or spinsterish acting role she's been offered. Funnier in her more extreme, exaggerated characterisations, her creations are nevertheless always distinct and vividly three-dimensional. And she's justifiably annoyed that her brilliant take on Kate Bush now looks like a cynical bandwagon jump after the chart-topping singer's renaissance.