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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Brighton 2010 arrow Paul Ricketts - Cutter's Choice
Paul Ricketts - Cutter's Choice
Published on Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Cutter's Choice is a distinctive and extraordinary show. Sub-titled A Personal and Political Black Hair-Story, Ricketts's deceptively simple premise – a short romp through his life in haircuts – reveals a fascinating story about social change and racial integration over the last thirty years of British history.

Ricketts himself cuts a laid-back figure in a crumpled suit, with a wild, unkempt head of hair. But that’s quickly revealed to be a wig covering neat, small dreadlocks – and straight away we are steeped in the tangled, politicised culture of black hair. We learn about the familiar ball-head cut and its origins in slavery, the many varieties of afro (including the white-afro, the wafro, gleefully illustrated with a slide of Vera Duckworth in her 70s heyday), dreadlocks and high-tops, where Ricketts's slide of Kid and Play got an enthusiastic round of applause.

Ricketts shows how various black hairstyles have been adopted for specific reasons.  He highlights their power as symbols of rebellion or conformity, and points out the way white people have adopted black hair-styles… and the other way round.  Throughout the show Ricketts relates each hair-style to his own life – usually illustrated with a slide of him sporting the 'do in question – and, further, links the story of each style to his own reactions to the fashion-driving social changes going on in the UK.

This is an absolutely fascinating show, but it was billed as stand-up comedy, and although the mood was light-hearted and warm it wasn't as joke-led as a lot of comedy acts. However, the show was so thoroughly enjoyable that I started to question if this really mattered so very much. In fact, I suspect, going harder for laughs would have diluted Ricketts's message and made the show poorer for it.

This is a welcome addition to the Fringe. A black British comic who is engaged with black history and politics is still too rare a thing on the comedy circuit. Ricketts also deserves praise for presenting his ideas in such a friendly, accessible format. Who hasn't had a bad hair day? And who knew hair could hold so much meaning?

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.