Mary Bourke: Hail Mary

Review by Bernard O'Leary | 10 Aug 2012
  • Mary Bourke

The Fringe is great for many things, but it's not especially kind to standup comedians. If you don't have a narrative, a powerpoint presentation or some kind of gimmick, you're likely to get overlooked. Hail Mary sets out to jump that chasm, to create a great show that consists of nothing but jokes.

Right from the start you know this is going to be surprising, as the pleasant and unimposing Bourke saunters onstage to the sound of Public Enemy's Fight The Power. And so it goes, with Bourke using her lilting Irish charm to disguise the harshness of her jokes: routines about the time she was so rude to AA Gill that she got fired; her desire to hunt and kill the users of Mumsnet; a  loathing of young, male, 'edgy' comics. Bourke's comedy is savage in intent and surgical in execution.

She completely dominates the pace of the gig, in much the same style that Stewart Lee is famous for, modulating betwen bubbly banter and slow-paced whispers. The show eventually reaches the biggest obstacle for this kind of thing: the bit around the 40-minute mark when audiences start to flag. Bourke clears it easily using a game that invites the audience to rate some one liners. It's true to the spirit of her show and peps the audience up for her big finale, which is a scathing discussion of the arrogance of some American comedians.

The showmanship and razzmatazz of the Fringe can sometimes make you forget what you first loved about comedy: the simplicity of one person, one mic and a lot of jokes. Bourke goes in search of that original spirit of standup and reclaims it with style.

Mary Bourke: Hail Mary, The Stand, until 26 Aug (not 13), 4.40pm, £8/ £7