Jen Brister - Now and Then
Firstly, don’t be late. We missed the first ten minutes or so (due to traffic problems) and, presumably, a story involving red tights, teenage self-consciousness and the life lessons such events contain. As we entered the room Brister heckled us, saying that the story just missed was critical to the show as a whole and she hoped we weren’t the reviewers. You can judge yourself whether the first ten minutes really do change everything. I may come back and do a little re-evaluating myself.
The red tights story was threaded, in a very natural way, through the whole show so we were able to pick up the general idea. Now And Then is billed as being about aging, and was interspersed with stories of her family, friends and girlfriend. It was pleasant to hear lesbian relationships normalised in a way similar to how Simon Amstel talks about nervously making small chat with a guy he likes. In the same vein Brister manages to build the jokes around her own ineptitude or neurosis rather than on anything to do with sexuality. The stories she tells are generally well paced although it’s not always clear to begin with where they’re going. In this way Brister is definitely maturing into a skilled comedian. I want to listen to something I can’t second guess and Brister more than succeeds in making you work a little harder than usual to keep up with her.
The gig had a comfortable atmosphere, though my plus one and I were the youngest people in the room by a couple years. A few references to whom, I assume, were Radio 4 personalities went completely over my head, but the audience chuckled regardless. In fact snorting and guffawing often erupted from middle aged audience members with interesting hairstyles; as if the women were trying to keep their enjoyment to a polite chuckle but couldn’t contain themselves. This is a good thing. Brister seemed slightly disappointed that the room was only half full, but it was full of people who obviously wanted to be there – which is surely the best sort of audience?
The other previews get it wrong; this show isn’t about aging - it’s about living! And for the most part it will be familiar to all of us – whether ladies or lesbians. I didn’t spot any men, but I think you’ll be more than welcome, guys. There were only two jokes at your expense. Pretty good all round.