Sophie Willan @ Pleasance Courtyard

Edinburgh Comedy Award nominated Sophie Willan's show is a shrewd look at labelling

Review by Ben Venables | 25 Aug 2017
  • Sophie Willan

Vacuous ideas don't do anyone any favours. In Branded, Sophie Willan explores how marketing has somehow replaced reality. After a high-energy start, she subtly shifts down a gear and opens up a complex argument against sticking people in pigeonholes, detailing the diminishing influence this has on a person. Filling people with hot air makes it possible for a young girl to believe her dad is an indie-rock star, almost right up until the point the young woman finds herself in a Wigan cafe with a relative stranger – when the bubble bursts. 

Though it isn't just on an individual level that Willan has insightful things to say. On the terrorist attack in Manchester, she makes a sharp point about the outpouring of misguided nostalgia for the city: it only served to highlight how little people knew about the place. 

Willan has a mature control of her material and there are many inspired jokes throughout the set – one about penicillin is a particular highlight. She understands her darker routines work because they hold truth, and that a political quip treads a fine line when it elicits applause before laughter. She won't escape the labels that simultaneously peg her while allowing her to play people at their own game – she can now make being "northern, female and working class" a selling point.

None of these labels are what make Willan a memorable performer though. It is the precision of her writing and nuanced outlook that helps define the first-rate comedian she is becoming. 

Sophie Willan: Branded, Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker Two), until 27 Aug, 8pm, £8-10