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Feminism For Chaps

Reviewed by Richard Stamp
Underground Venues
13-14 Jul 7pm to 8pm, 15 Jul 8:30pm to 9:30pm

I approach this particular write-up with some trepidation.  Andrew Watts opens his solo comedy show with a biting deconstruction of a previous review – a review which accused his patter of betraying casual misogyny.  Many male comedians would take that as a badge of pride, but Watts (to his credit) was stung; and this new show is a form of rebuttal, an earnest pro-feminist manifesto, thrown into sharp relief by the recent arrival of Watts’ longed-for first-born child.

You may or may not define Watts as a feminist, but you can’t dispute that he’s a chap.  Wilfully overdressed in a summer-weight jacket, and constantly sweeping back his coiffed-but-unruly hair, he’s the kind of fellow you instantly warm to yet expect to be useless at everything.  In fact, he turns out to be a pretty handy comedian, but assumptions like that one are very much part of the thesis of his show; by the time the hour’s up, he’s compellingly argued that bloke-bashing stereotypes are actually far more damaging to women than men.

Along the way, Watts also relates the old-fashioned gender-based cruelty of a matron on the maternity ward, and makes a provocative case that badly-applied feminism has the same end result as misogyny.  These are all fascinating observations, but it’s desperately hard work to make them entertaining, and I can’t help feeling that Watts has over-thought the humour.  The biggest laughs – from both men and women – came in response to some of the simplest material.

And conversely, while Watts name-checks a lot of feminist thinkers, he doesn’t devote an awful lot of attention to the specifics of what they believe.  His practical advice on “feminism for chaps” is essentially to do some cooking and share the childcare – important points, yes, but also rather obvious ones.  Overall, this is a show which sets out to be both educational and funny and, in the end, doesn’t quite commit to either.

When he’s going all-out for humour, though, Watts is very enjoyable indeed.  The first few minutes of this show are among the most outright hilarious I’ve seen in Buxton, and there are comic highlights sprinkled throughout the rest of the hour, including a classic dilemma of political-correctness and a lengthy scene set at a sex party.  At the end of the day, a terribly nice man talking about an orgy simply can’t fail to be funny.

And Watts is a terribly nice man, who pushes all the “aah” buttons with his self-deprecating and self-questioning tales of his own family life.  But there, I think, is the rub; he’s inoffensive to a fault, shying away from the challenging sharpness this type of material demands.  It’s an enjoyable hour – but to make it the show it could be, perhaps Watts needs to make himself a little bit less of a chap.

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About the Buxton Fringe

The Buxton Fringe 2014 runs from 9 to 27 July in the town of Buxton, Derbyshire. 

It's easy to find your way around this friendly Festival, with most venues within a stone's throw of the town centre.  For more information on the Peak District's own Fringe, check out the official website.

Buxton Fringe online >>