The News At Kate 2013 - My Professional Opinion

Fri 16th – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Hannah Greenstreet

at 02:44 on 22nd Aug 2013

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I wouldn’t call ‘The News at Kate’ strictly stand up. Instead, it’s rather like having a chat with an extremely well informed and opinionated friend, who just happens to be pretty funny. The teaser on the edfringe website is right to declare the evening “unashamedly left wing [and] highbrow”.

The show springs from Kate Smurthwaite’s experiences of appearing on numerous comment shows, as a mouthpiece for various (mostly left-wing) opinions. This extends into an exploration of what it means to have an opinion, and, with this, the show takes a rather meta-turn. Smurthwaite starts the show by asking the audience to say which was their favourite Spice Girl, before working up to perhaps more pressing political issues, such as the gender politics of “vajazzling”, religion, as well as abortion.

Smurthwaite structures the show coherently by working through a Wikihow article on “How to have an opinion”, which she later confesses to have written herself. She makes good use of props, particularly her megaphone and the blond wig, but also a variety of ‘opinion’ articles. However, at times, the written props detract from the comedy, as they are not always easy to make funny, despite the ridiculousness of some of the opinions they express.

My quibble with the show is that it feels like it’s preaching to the converted, given its mainly liberal audience. Would a rampant Tory really go and see a left-wing comedy show, unless he/she hankered after seeing an extended travesty of Nadine Dorries (it makes sense in the context of the show)? Smurthwaite’s key message is that opinions can be changed and comedy is best placed to change them but I already agreed with almost everything she said. At one point she seemed to abandon the comedy altogether, letting out a torrent of heartfelt words about why abortion was necessary and the improvements the government should make to support women through it, which elicited cheers from the crowd.

‘News at Kate’ is well written and Smurthwaite is great at improvising and engaging with the audience; the cohesion of the final few minutes is gratifying, as the various threads of the show are drawn into a kind of unified whole. Nonetheless, the 'big finish' of the ending confirms that Smurthwaite does not take herself, or the show, too seriously - which is all the better for the comedy.

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Marnie Langeroodi

at 10:52 on 22nd Aug 2013

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This left-wing political stand-up performance was funny and stimulating. Kate Smurthwaite entertained the audience while managing to deal with some serious issues. If the audience learnt something, they probably didn’t even realise it.

Kate was friendly and affable throughout, eliciting a strong reaction from the crowd - when she asked for suggestions, they were readily given. Her crowd interactions were well handled, picking up on a number of viewer-comments and improvising with these. It was genuinely interesting to hear about her work and her experiences in the media as a professional 'opinion-haver'.

The performance was well structured and fluid overall; jokes ran through the show, many being revived at various points. Kate also used set-pieces such as the memorable 'Nadine-Dorries-versus-Kate' bit to maintain momentum throughout. Also successful was the use of props, although perhaps sticking to one megaphone would have sufficed.

This was by no means a 'sit-back and just listen' kind of show. The audience were made to think, if only about how they think. This was effectively shown in the audience’s readiness to pass judgement on the Spice Girls, while there was a noticeably quieter response when asked about Syria. It’s strange what we choose to have an opinion on. Perhaps some things are just too important.

Kate can laugh at her critics, using their animosity to fuel her comedy; she even has a favourite death-threat. And, like any stand-up comedian, she mocks MPs and journalists, but with more political potency than most.

'The News at Kate' is littered with serious political opinions, particularly surrounding the issue of abortion. As she acknowledges, people are much more receptive to an argument if it is disguised as a joke. This, and other similar advice, suggests to me that Kate’s performance had some strong and considered ideas behind it. This show appears to have an agenda of doing something productive: arm the public with the tools to change minds, and change the world. Okay, so that might be an exaggeration, but you get the general point.

If you don’t like women, atheists, racial minorities, gays etc., then, well, screw you. Kate does. And I like Kate.

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