Edinburgh Fringe Reviews: Working Class Heroes

Two ace shows that explore social class

Feature by Craig Angus | 15 Aug 2016
  • James Meehan

Both James Meehan and Suzi Ruffell begin their shows by asking for a show of hands: “Who in the room is working class?” This being Edinburgh during the Festival, it’s a small group that responds, but it’s a hearty noise of affirmation. That pride is shared, and explored, by both shows.

Meehan’s Class Act [★★★] is a hard-hitting tale of prejudice, and not just against the working classes, but against women, black people and disabled people – and for the latter he provides anecdotal evidence that’s truly shocking. It’s the personal touches that provide the moments of inspiration in this show.

The Gein’s Family Giftshop member offers perceptive commentary about society in general. Understanding is the order of the day; the family tied together by a love of television (remind you of anything?) and why that’s so important to them, the man blaming job losses on his Indian neighbour, the woman driven to distress by chronic illness. It’s serious material but Meehan handles it well and saves his fury for a couple of powerful diatribes. There's one recurring joke about movie credits that feels tacked on, but it’s a small complaint. This is a show from a place of love, and a wholly enjoyable hour.

suzi ruffell
Suzi Ruffell

Suzi Ruffell’s Common [★★★★] explores similar territory, and has a clear message – it’s cool to be proud of your roots, but there’s no shame in wanting after a dream house by the sea. Aspiration doesn’t go hand-in-hand with fucking people over.

Ruffell’s story takes us from a school classroom in her home city of Portsmouth – and a teacher unsympathetic to dyslexia – to her recent television debut, and the narrative of her journey blends excellently with her message about class structure and LGBT rights. It’s a very well written show that gains momentum and never lets up, partly because Ruffell herself is hilarious, a performer with a formidable range that she utilises to the fullest extent.

James Meehan: Class Act, Just the Tonic at The Tron, 4-28 Aug (not 15), 6.20pm, £5
Suzi Ruffell: Common, Just the Tonic at The Mash House (The Snifter Room), 4-28 Aug (not 15), 8.20pm, £5-6/PWYW