This review originally appeared on Bristol24/7
Ellen Waddell, February 23, 2015
Josie Long is now a veteran of the comedy scene with 14 years under her belt, and this bonus matinee performance (the evening show having sold out) is testament to her hard graft and stealthily rising star.
She amiably greets the crowd in her usual off-kilter style, playing the dual role of headliner and compere and asking the audience to make some noise like they are “Vikings, without the crimes, who have fallen in love with a hammer.”
With his smart attire and plummy voice, support Tom Allen is quite the dapper gent: and he excels in the role of upper-class wit, dryly casting scathing judgments on the ridiculous nature of social conformities, homophobic attitudes and misremembered childhood nostalgia.
He quickly dispenses with audience interaction by declaring it “exhausting,” – but it’s done with tongue firmly in cheek, and his diatribe on the perils of primary-school education is a whirlwind of pithy one-liners and confident showmanship.
If Allen keeps the audience at arm’s length, Long – in new show Cara Josephine – embraces us into her wise bosom, offering us sage lessons on what life, and Trisha, has taught her thus far about love.
When a heartbroken Long misses a plane to Berlin in autumn 2013, she is forced to confront all her romantic failings in the form of a love bite “the size of a slice of ham”, on the neck of a 16-year-old girl working at McDonalds. This kickstarts a section of romantic self-examination in which Long reflects on her history of heartbreak, her fears of eternal single-dom and a forever barren womb.
The show is interspersed with trips into Long’s rich inner world: a wonderland filled with film noir pastiches, ginger men who look like ex-Vikings – and Nigel Farage, whom Long has smothered to death with marshmallows.
Despite her upbeat and energetic performance, the affable Long concedes that in her darkest moments she has questioned whether the only thing the heartbreaks had in common was her own “hideous personality”. With her contagious optimism and disarming smile, this is hard to imagine. Or rather, her heart is so obviously big and so honestly borne during the show, you would not want to.
She deliberate strays away from a formulaic narrative with the show, perhaps due to her own love of unrealistic romantic narratives, and her astute self-analysis produces a deeply honest and authentic 90 minutes of comedy, in which you get a real sense of who Long is and what she holds most dear. When she tells you she was left heartbroken by a Raymond Carver story, there is not a drop of insincerity in the revelation.
Long does skirt occasionally off into philosophical ramblings, particularly in a muddled middle section on Walt Whitman and outdoor swimming: but an edited, tighter hour would mean less opportunity for vulnerability, silliness and passion.
She may claim to have no take-home message other than “don’t die”, but Long’s set is littered with tiny lessons on hope and love. These could have been tied up in a neat bow – but part of Long’s charm is her honesty, and that does not always come bookended.
Josie Long played the Tobacco Factory Theatre on Sunday, February 22. For more line-ups at the Tobacco Factory and Comedy Box, visit www.thecomedybox.co.uk/site/index.asp