Cambridge Junction, 14/10/2018
On Sunday night, the random sunny October spell suddenly gave way to wet and grizzly weather so thank god that Jen Brister had come to Cambridge Junction. The stark yet cosy venue turned out to be the perfect setting for Brister’s continuation of her Edinburgh show Meaningless, a straight-forward, gut-busting hour. Filing in, the conversation and energy of the audience crackled lightly, further stoked by the comic stylings of support act, Ingrid Dahle. The Norwegian comic was playful and harmlessly chaotic as she rattled through goofy sight gags, anecdotes about her kids, and adorable observations about English people, doing so with an infectious, fun-loving persona that made it seem like she spent all day thinking of these quirky things and just had to tell us right this very second.
After a fifteen-minute break for us all to grab a glass of wine, Jen Brister entered the stage, dressed simply in a ‘CHOOSE LOVE’ t-shirt and jeans, almost bewildered by the fact that we were mad enough to be out on a Sunday night. Despite this, the crowd (89 of us which Brister pointed out had cemented her ‘making it’ in show business) immediately warmed to her frustrations with the fact her mother was living with her, aided by a remarkable Spanish accent. This became part of Brister’s intense likeability because one felt welcomed without her backing down from how she felt about patronising mothers, crowdfunding Gwyneth Paltrow’s death, and how she plans to raise her sons. Furthermore, she carried this off without sparing her own foibles and inadequacies that collectively gave the impression she was distrustful of almost absolutely everything, not least herself. A good example was in her ponderings on her own position ‘as a mother’ for even using that phrase Brister believed was a subject of ridicule. All of this culminated in a show that felt like Brister ranting down the pub with us, so she doesn’t lose her rag back home. The hour flew by feeling like a slightly elevated club set in its frankness and professionality, an effect that was aided by the dark red curtain and low lighting of the performance space.
Despite the show’s title, the Brighton-based comedian brought a lot of meaning to all her topics, which she considered in an intelligent but grounded way. There was a coarse tenderness in all of her takes as it seemed Brister wanted to strip away all the bullshit from her own busy life to get to the nub of how we collectively can be better. This brought a real sense of care when her show turned to more overtly political messages about sanitary products and the NHS, which by no means stopped the laughs coming. Even when she did get serious, Jen Brister hadn’t an ounce of pretension, from her easy utilisation of well-timed sound and sight gags to the calm conviction with which she carried her political ideals. This made the way she delved into intersectional feminism seem natural and unquestioned; she’d gained her trust in the first half and now the floor was hers to tell us exactly how she felt and don’t be shocked if it’s as bad as it sounds. This was all reciprocated and then some by the (mostly female) audience who laughed, gasped, and clapped throughout.
Jen Brister’s Meaningless was a show that was at once focused and all-encompassing. Brister had no bones about delving into seemingly whatever she felt like and all of us were more than happy to let her continue. It was lean, angry, and straight-up entertaining, with the diamond always shining through the rough. 5/5.