REVIEW: Jo Caulfield, Sofie Hagen @ The Bottle Shop Bar & Kitchen, Newcastle (04.05.16) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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After last year’s award-winning kick-ass show Bubblewrap, the third year running she’s won an award, expectations are high for Sofie Hagen’s new show. You can see the pressure really getting to her as she calls herself to the stage, comes on, and kicks off her shoes, opening with witty remarks about herself and about Newcastle.

Like last year, her material is both utterly hilarious and immensely personal from the get-go. She warms up the audience with some stuff about the difference between guardian comments and youtube comments (“you can sense her underlying sadness” and simply “snorlax”, respectively), making it very clear immediately that we are invited to laugh along with her. She chooses to own the pain she has gone through and turn it into comedy for her own empowerment. And she’s REALLY good at it. She approaches intense topics like depression and online abuse with her frank feminist perspective and makes properly brilliant jokes out of them that are surprisingly accessible without trivialising the issues. Her set is peppered with lighter stuff too, like the gloriously weird, cringey stories from her childhood. She’s a born storyteller, and weaves them expertly into the arc of the show so these tangents never feel irrelevant, and uses them to give us just enough breaks from the really intense stuff. That said, I still wanted to cry-laugh at the end of it, in the best way imaginable. I cannot wait to see the finished product at the Fringe.

Up next is Jo Caulfield. It would do her an injustice to dismiss her as simply “off of Mock the Week”, but that is probably where you’ll know her from, and indeed the cadences of her speech often sound quite Mock-the-Weeky. The jokes have quite a panelshowy arc and her delivery often feels like there’s a camera she’s performing to, and the laughter from the audience is almost incidental. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course; it simply shows that that’s where she’s honed her craft is all. She’s actually-I-think-you’ll-find done loads of telly though, as well as numerous solo shows and a podcast. Her confidence brims right from when she takes the stage and begins with some expert crowd work, followed by a clever joke about marriage, and then a small routine about the ridiculousness of the SNP. Everyone is immediately on board.

Jo’s observational material goes down a storm. It’s nowhere near as personal as Sofie’s, but that’s not better or worse, simply different. While it might be hard to know exactly what message you take away from Jo’s show, you know as you’re watching it that you’ll notice yourself doing all those things she highlights about everyday life, and probably quoting her to your friends too. It’s thrilling to see another show that feels so “for women” as well, in an artistic context that has for so long consisted of art by men for men. It doesn’t alienate her male audience mind, and indeed her woman-curmudgeon persona seems to go down well with everyone in the room regardless of gender as it’s just so relatable.

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