Joe Sutherland: Toxic (4 stars)

Joe Sutherland: Toxic

Revitalising the gender debate with warmth and wit

Faced with an audience just shy of a dozen, and a full hour to share some deeply personal material with them, it might have been understandable if Joe Sutherland delivered a shaky performance. His relaxed composure and razor-sharp wit, therefore, made for a welcome surprise, and brought an intimate and easy atmosphere into an otherwise awkward situation.

And awkward situations, it seems, have characterised much of Sutherland's tumultuous journey from an 'effeminate' little boy to the man he is today, via some tragically sweet and mixed-up moments. Anecdotes about his upbringing in 90s Coventry – a place where queer culture was entirely non-existent – flamboyant fashion choices, and the tribulations of leading an adult life with his boyfriend, are dappled with commentary on Brexit, millennial culture, and smug philanthropists. Such topics can come across as stale, but Sutherland miraculously rejuvenated them with refreshing perspective and valid insight.

Toxic is as much an hour of endearing storytelling as a stand-up set, and Sutherland's wry but earnest comedy gave his audience the privilege of feeling like close friends in his living room, rather than a bunch of strangers in a desperately under-filled theatre. And his story, for all its honesty and charm, lets us appreciate manhood for the performance that it really is.

Underbelly Bristo Square, until 27 Aug, 8.10pm, £9–10 (£8–9).

Joe Sutherland: Toxic

  • 4 stars

United Agents Masculinity – isn't it, like, over? Or are there new ways to model manliness? Growing up Joe felt less like a boy, more like a Spice Girl. Now he's sort of grown up, and technically a man. This is a show about embracing girl power to create your own brand of manhood. 'Richly entertaining' ★★★…

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