Mistress and Misfit

Thu 3rd – Sun 27th August 2017


Louis Harnett O'Meara

at 10:07 on 10th Aug 2017



Equipped with a portrait of Emma Hamilton and a naval officer’s hat, Shappi Khorsandi fires off a barrage of wit at a full house on a Wednesday night. Using Lady Hamilton as her muse – model, actress, Lord Nelson’s mistress and ‘England’s unsung heroine’ – Khorsandi quips through history; touching on race, class, femininity and ethnicity without a whiff of conceit. The BBC primetime panel show regular demonstrated a confidence that we can only expect of her, and never missed a beat with her quick talking, disorientating chaos of earthy intelligent fun.

Shappi takes her audience through the life story of her Georgian misfit by relating it back to her own. Although separated by time and space, some themes remain persistent amongst the independent women of this world. Sexually liberated and socially oppressed, from her prostitution to her social climb and her eventual time in the camps at Calais, Emma mirrors aspects of the modern world in ways that one never expected from the beginning of the show. The delivery is casual and conversational, but at the same time clearly well informed.

Audience members were unwillingly, but wittily, drawn in as Shappi demonstrated her improvisational abilities – she seemed well versed in the field and the responses (though far from bizarre) never made her blink. She coped with her own confusions in the same way, and at times it was clear she had lost direction, but she was confident in pulling it back into giggling territory. As she falls off course she shouts to the crowd ‘Where was I then? Help me out,’ – ‘Naples!’ and she’s back. Though messy at times it was clear there was a professional at work. As she was comfortable to mention, there are always days we have where we might find ourselves a little less agile off the gun. But when she floundered she floundered in style.

The audience must have averaged twice my age (forty-two to be precise), and Khorsandi worked to mother the crowd. She knew her audience and spoke on their level. Sometimes I felt there was a little less bite than I might have liked, and the appeal to grime culture felt like a token effort towards the youth; but it was a token offered tongue-in cheek. Though her rapping was cringe-worthy it earned an endearing chuckle from myself (though perplexity from some of the crowd), and its good-heartedness stood in comforting contrast to the grit of the lyrics.

I’m sure she wasn’t on her best form – though this isn’t to say it was bad at all – and it’s not to my usual taste, but I left the theatre feeling cheery and warmed. Shappi Khotrsandi is an effortless comedian and the show hit every spot it needed to hit. I had fun from start to finish: the topics were smart and usually had the jokes to match, and nothing ever felt out of anybody’s reach. It’s a safe suggestion to anyone at the Fringe looking for some easy, intelligent wit.


Jessica Lord

at 11:34 on 10th Aug 2017



TV comic Shappi Khorsandi is well known for her sharp tongue, quick wittedness and ability to make (pretty much) any situation comic. Yet little did I know she is also a part-time historical biographer, as she explored the life of Emma Hamilton, the famed lover of Horatio Nelson, in her latest sketch. Whilst doing so, she weaves in stories about her own life, to a fantastically entertaining effect.

In the space of just an hour, Khorsandi manages to cover political, racial, and sexual humour. To be perfectly honest, I don’t quite know how she managed to fit it all in, yet she did. She referenced her own race and experiences, disregarded the need to destroy the patriarchy in exchange for bringing down ‘unscrupulous florists’, and even managed to include a reference to Jeremy Corbyn. I’m very pleased to say that somehow, this melting pot of jokes - worked.

I particularly enjoyed her take on the youth of today, presented through her story about a younger man whom she had previously dated. He was apparently into ‘grime’, so she spent her evenings listening to ‘The Stormzy’ in an effort to communicate with him. Her rendition of ‘Shut up’ was a highlight, and I’d recommend the performance purely for that.

Emotional depth wasn’t something that I expected from this type of performance, yet Khorsandi elegantly achieved this for just a moment, as she talked about the connection she felt between Emma and herself, as a young, single, pregnant woman. Although she managed to then turn it on its head and comically attack her ex, there was a very powerful atmosphere, for just a few seconds.

My only criticism would be the age rating of the show. I’m not sure 14+ is totally wise nor appropriate. The language was quite explicit and some of the content very sexual, which I don’t think anyone aged 14 would appreciate or understand.

Despite this minor concern, her audience interaction was excellent - references to social class always seemed to rile audience members, a particular discussion of upper class names was very amusing, and her ability to improvise proved her natural comedic ability.

Khorsandi manages to make the exceptionally tragic story of a little known woman very vibrant, interesting and memorable. It was fresh, funny, and historically flawless. I laughed, I learnt, and I ‘literally’ (you’ll need to see it to understand) loved it. A huge well done to Shappi Khorsandi, simply fab.


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