Isabelle Farah claims to have lost her keys, but because this is a stand-up show, the audience are slow to warm to her instructions to help her find them. Would you trust a comedian asking you to put your hand into a shocking pink bag planted under your seat? When they finally engage, they are easily drawn in by the effervescent Farah, who wanders around the stage with an old school corded microphone which she says makes her feel as though she has a ‘tail between her legs’.
Irresponsabelle is a mixture of observation and anecdote that wanders through the perennial issues a 37-year-old woman pretending she is in her 20s faces. A mother waiting for grandchildren, friends able to follow their dreams because of support Farah doesn’t have and a big sister vibe that sees her mothering her office mates.
Farah approaches this all with comedy set pieces – lists, question and answers, and set ups that lead to spiky punches. She is at her best in her shrewd asides – delivered under her breath and occasionally followed by sighing interjections, as she waits for the audience to catch up with appreciative laughter. When wryly dissecting what it means to be a ‘Girl Boss’ for example, she quips that the instruction is to ‘lean in, but not too far for a hint of boob and no one takes you seriously’.
‘Lean in’ encapsulates Farrah’s approach to the serious topics that as a self declared feminist she deftly unpacks. It’s 2023 and women are still battling gender pay gaps and having to ‘work four times as hard’ while looking ‘three times as cute’ as men.
Fresh from Edinburgh to the Vault Festival there are flashes of brilliance in Irresponsabelle. Farah lightly handles the tricky issue of women’s fertility as they get older by joking about the ‘practical’ use of miniskirts – wear them in winter and they’ll help you freeze your eggs, she suggests – leading the audience in one direction before undercutting expectations with cheeky one liners to hilarious effect. As the show develops, if more of these moments could be strung together, there would be no gaps in the audience’s willing laughter.
VAULT Festival 2023 runs Tuesday 24th January to Sunday 19th March, full listings and ticket information can be found here.
This review was written by a participant of the VAULT Festival New Critics Programme in partnership with Theatre Weekly. For more information about the VAULT Festival New Critics Programme, and all of our 2023 participants, please visit: https://vaultfestival.com/new-critics-programme/