Gay Furnish: Flirt Coach

Thu 6th – Sun 30th August 2015


Holly Willis

at 11:35 on 8th Aug 2015



Charlotte McDougall, an actor, writer, and comedian with an impressive list of credits to her name, embarks this year on her first solo project at the Fringe. Gay Furnish: Flirt Coach is a comic masterclass in sexology and flirtation, taught by ‘dating guru’ Gay Furnish (McDougall). The idea is innovative and original, the humour sometimes questionable, and the show utterly bonkers from beginning to end.

McDougall is lively and energetic throughout. Her flamboyance and vivacity never falters. She also demonstrates impressive talent for improvisation and audience interaction, responding to audience questions (and heckling!) with sharp wit and charm. Musician Chad de Long also deserves credit for his good humour and professionalism in such circumstances.

The script is of a more mixed standard. There are some moments of pure comic brilliance, particularly towards the beginning of the show. At other times, jokes fall flat. There are some dodgy puns which gain little or no audience reaction. McDougall seems to have played it safe, going for the obvious jokes when a more adventurous script would probably have had greater success with the audience. Her use of crude, sexual humour is more cringe than funny, and actually resulted in a substantial number of audience members leaving.

McDougall includes songs in her performance, accompanied by de Long. This does add variety to the show, but I personally found these songs to be more disruptive than helpful. Some of them are vaguely funny, but often the words are rushed and it becomes difficult to make out the jokes. Similarly her use of multi-rolling sometimes hinders the flow of the performance, and turns it from charmingly eccentric to bafflingly ridiculous. Her acting was fabulous, but the whole thing was just far too mad for me.

There is no doubt that McDougall is extremely talented, and a natural comic actress. The main problem is that with McDougall’s background in comedy and the four and five star reviews on her flyers, I expected something laugh-out-loud funny. I was definitely entertained by her performance, but also disappointed with the comedy. If you’re in the mood for something light-hearted and crazy, this show is probably a good bet, but don’t expect your sides to split.


Beckie Rutherford

at 11:42 on 8th Aug 2015



It’s difficult not to feel slightly shell-shocked after spending an hour with Gay Furnish, the larger-than-life ‘sexologist and dating guru’ created and performed by character comedian, Charlotte McDougall. After throwing herself on stage and immediately breaking the fourth wall (the first of many, progressively painful demonstrations of Gay’s self-described “squirting charisma”) McDougall’s principle character goes on to conduct a masterclass brimming with tongue-in-cheek advice and slapstick demonstrations. For those for whom vulgar sexual humour and pantomime-esque characters have an innate appeal, this show will be an indulgence – but to those with even a slight aversion to either, it will be something of a nightmare.

Beware the lengths that McDougall goes to in making friends with her audience. If the chance of being plucked from your seat and instructed to tap dance or cup your groin on stage whilst chanting self-love mantras makes your stomach churn, then definitely steer clear of this show. The high degree of audience interaction presented McDougall with ample opportunity for improv and the ease of her responses was an obvious reflection of both her experience and professionalism. However, the lengthy and recurring presence of one audience member on stage (said tap dancing, groin-cupping victim) began to feel over reliant, and is a feature that will no doubt inhibit the overall performance on nights where Gay’s helper is less willing to embrace their bizarre role.

The additional characters (all performed by McDougall) were a mixed bag in terms of success. Eileen Spangle, a showbiz octogenarian who shared her plethora of sexual anecdotes through song, was the biggest hit. But by the time Casey, the Australian fitness fanatic stumbled onto the stage, most of the audience were no longer on board. McDougall didn’t struggle to keep up the energy of her performance, which was impressive given the physically demanding nature of her characters. The unravelling of the second half was more due to weaknesses in the jokes themselves and audience disengagement from a tired formula. As the laughs became less frequent, Gay’s antics seemed to become more outlandish, and the feeling among those who made it to the end of the show was one of weariness.

Gay’s master class is only worth committing to with the certain knowledge that slapstick and crude innuendo is your sort of thing.


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