Ria Lina: Taboo Raider

Wed 5th – Sun 30th August 2015


Catherine Crook

at 09:56 on 21st Aug 2015



When Ria Lina proudly declared herself a ‘taboo raider’, I wondered whether I’d be watching a Katie Hopkins-esque barrage of deliberate, mindless provocation; insulting solely for shock value. True, there are lots of insults in Ria Lina’s show, but fortunately, not all of them are mindless. Instead of simply being provocative, Lina is witty, incisive and makes some really valid points about just how confusing language can be when we’re trying not to offend –although every now and again, offensive can be –well, just offensive.

In enters Ria Lina, Taboo Raider, to question just where existing taboos in society come from and just how to shove your way through them. The show is at its best when questioning the origin of taboos, and is at its funniest then – there is a comedic aspect to what can happen if you don’t eat with the right hand in India, or the vitriol you receive from old ladies if you commit the cardinal sin of wearing your hat indoors. Other moments of joy include when Lina points out just how similar the ‘acceptable’ language of race is to the language of Starbucks - an ‘ethnic blend’ something you could easily order with an extra shot and poured over ice.

There are real moments of genuinely sharp, observational humour in the show that I feel get sidetracked by the urge to shock, but occasionally, Lina’s provocative statements do make a whole lot of sense . Lina genuinely wants to open a dialogue surrounding issues that we consider difficult to talk about; speaking at the risk of offending, in her eyes, being much more effective than being paralysed by social niceties. Although provocative she may be, she’s certainly not thoughtless.

Whether the best way of opening that dialogue is through Lina’s style of shocking anecdotes is something I was not entirely convinced by. Telling an audience that taking offence is a fault of personal insecurity – or rather “if you’re offended, fuck off!” – absolves the speaker of any culpability. While possessing moments of hilarity, this fundamental disconnect between her ideas and mine led her darkest jokes to fall flat – and frankly, if you’re telling jokes about gas chambers in an attempt at edginess, that’s more telling of speaker than listener.

Overall, I enjoyed Lina’s show, if not with a bit of squirming along with the rest of the audience. She is a charismatic comic with great potential that makes some really valid points in an incisive, funny way, but are detracted from by the barrage of deliberately shocking jokes; still, in a show called Taboo Raider, there were certainly some taboos, and they were certainly raided upon. I would be interested in seeing more of Lina’s work, but unfortunately, this concept just didn’t quite do it for me.


Isabella Goldstein

at 23:16 on 21st Aug 2015



Last year Ria Lina’s show School of Riason received award nominations and a commission for BBC Radio 4. This year she returns with a new routine, looking at modern taboos such as racism, sexism and discrimination. Are we really at our most civilised and knowledgeable or has political correctness simply gone mad?

Such questions surrounding artistic censorship have been a prolific theme within comedy and political drama at this year’s fringe, with equal support on both ends of the spectrum. Ria Lina contributes to the debate by offering a fearless attack on the paradoxical nature of ‘taboo.’

Her jokes mock society for privileging linguistic notions of tolerance over attempts at direct action, a blunt, wry comic style which is at its cleverest when it highlights how certain liberal circles have created a culture of fear around controversy.

The first part of her routine focuses upon how bizarrely uncomfortable we are with criticising those who are disabled – as if physical disability has anything to do with an individual’s ability to make morally responsible choices. According to Lina we learn some grave lessons from the case of Oscar Pistorius, namely that “legs or no legs, doesn’t mean you’re any less of a dick.”

As Lina moves on to discussing our notions of “culturally acceptable terms” her punchlines become nearer and nearer the mark, and it cannot be denied that in some parts of the routine her overarching message becomes lost as a consequence of the crudeness of these jokes and anecdotes. It is during these moments that Lina could legitimately be accused of provocation for provocation’s sake.

However, make no mistake, this is not blindly offensively material. More often than not the inflammatory language in the routine works to illustrate how, by refusing to take note of the taboos that surround a particular question or issue, we can open up our dialogue and reach a more enlightened level of understanding.

Ultimately I also agreed with Lina’s point that there are some things about negative stereotypes which are funny, and that to try and deny this is a form of censorship.

By the end of the performance the audience’s original nervous laughter had been transformed into a comfortable chortle and it was interesting to witness this evolution – a visual indicator of Lina’s success at articulating her comic message.

This show is by no means to everyone’s tastes (Lina herself acknowledges this). Nonetheless, it is a fiercely confident and candid performance from a comedian with many intelligent things to say; worth a watch if you’re a fan of black humour.


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