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Tom Allen: Women!
Published on Sunday, 23 August 2009

One of the most distinctive things about Allen, beside his shaved-bald head and old-beyond-his-years appearance (he's only 26!), is the way he speaks. Very slow, very deliberate, very arch. With long pauses. Between words. For emphasis. All while talking, in this show, about the women who have influenced his life - sort of 'To All The Girls I've Loved Before (But Not Like That)'.

For Allen is gay: a fact that barely needs explaining, but one which informs rather than defines his comedy. His routine for Women! is insightful and incisive, but never malicious, and is almost gentle. Some of the foibles he describes are well-observed and immediately recognisable, such as his mother's confusion that a family friend had attempted suicide when "she's just had her kitchen done."

He dwells long on his research into the fairer sex, reading magazines such as Woman or Woman's Own, listening to Women's Hour on the radio, or watching Loose Women on TV. With some of the detail inherent in that, he's only playing to half the room, but manages most of the time to draw humour out of it that speaks to widely perceived flaws in such media, particularly their shrill sensationalism and actually quite misogynistic attitudes.

A 2005 winner of Edinburgh's So You Think You're Funny? and the BBC's New Comedy Award, Allen is a unique comedian with a style that is all his own. Very occasionally that style can become a bit wearing, and the audience often arrives at the punchline long before his delivery does. The sense of knowing intimacy is generally all part of the fun, though.

Women! is a refined act by a refined actor which won't go down well with the braying mobs that lap up the coarser humour available round the Fringe. He will suit an audience which is smart and wants to hear some fine recollections and observational comedy from a fine young (although you wouldn't believe it) comedian.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2009.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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