Review: Bethany Black: (Extra)Ordinary, Edinburgh Festival Preview @ XS Malarkey

By July 16, 2016

Comedy. Manchester.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Self-confessed idiot Bethany Black claims that she always says the wrong thing. Luckily for us, that sentiment doesn’t apply to her stand-up performances.

As Britain’s only trans lesbian goth comedian, Black’s comic perspective is as unique as it is hilarious. She manages to cover even the darker subject matter of drug addiction and depression with a cheeky smile and self-deprecating, embarrassing and (usually) dirty jokes.

Like Black’s previous shows, (Extra)Ordinary is autobiographical. Where previous shows have dealt with her struggles with drug addiction and gender identity, (Extra)Ordinary has a more discrete narrative. While it weaves both of those threads throughout, as it quite rightly should, the main thrust of the show is the story of the lowest point in Black’s recent life, and the unexpected circumstances of its recovery.

From relationship breakdowns, deaths and injuries one after another and right to the edge of giving up, Black’s life is transformed by her casting in Russell T Davies’ drama series Banana. Suddenly she became the first transgender actress to star as a transgender character on British, and then American broadcast television. Her subsequent casting in Doctor Who then made her the first transgender actress to play a cisgender character anywhere in the world.

Both sides of this story are handled with Black’s signature self-deprecating commentary about her own ability to insert her foot into her mouth at every opportunity. This allows her to brilliantly avoid both the depressing and the mawkish on her route through the narrative, and keep a steady, expertly-judged tone throughout, avoiding the unevenness that can come with these kinds of personal stories.

As a preview, the show is not yet complete, but it already feels polished. Although some of the show is reworked from Black’s older material, it is employed with such skill and enthusiasm that even those familiar with her material will struggle to see the joins. With Black’s expert delivery and humility, (Extra)Ordinary becomes hilarious, uplifting, ridiculous and indeed extraordinary, all in equal measure.

Bethany Black: (Extra)Ordinary will be performed at The Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh between the 4th and 28th August (exc. the 15th) at 6pm.