Catherine Bohart: 'I wasn't really prepared to deal with a walkout, but if someone does walk out this year it will be fun'

This article is from 2019

Lemon soul

Irish stand-up tells us about the loathing she seemed to trigger in one audience member at last year's Fringe

Last year's Fringe was, in the main, a positive experience for debutant Catherine Bohart. Her show Immaculate focused on her OCD, bisexuality and religious family, and was well attended, received a slew of star-friendly reviews and garnered plenty talk of possible award nominations.

But the oft-quoted truism that any single act of comedy simply won't be for everyone was never more obvious to Bohart when she spotted one audience member sitting in a clearly displeased fashion. Her passive-aggressive negativity became distracting to the comic who just managed to keep things on course. But word reached Bohart later that her more frank material hadn't gone down well with this punter who eventually made it verbally clear that the Irish comic's act and, by extension, her very existence was an abomination to her.

The barely concealed bigotry that had oozed from this person affected Bohart so much that she simply had to write her second Fringe hour around her encounter with this woman in the lemon-coloured cardigan. 'It was week three and she was on the back row of the right-hand side in Bunker Two [in Pleasance Courtyard],' says Bohart with a very vivid recall. 'I remember her very well; I could pick her out of a line-up. I see her when I close my eyes. I was told that she said I was disgusting. I wasn't really prepared to deal with a walkout at my first Edinburgh, but if someone does walk out this year it will be fun. I'll check out what they're wearing and use it for next year.'

So, Lemon was born, and judging by the early previews in midsummer, it looks like being a very worthy follow-up to 2018's successful maiden voyage. This unsavoury incident became the trigger for a new show about sex, sexuality, relationships, bigotry and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 'It feels like there's slightly less pressure in keeping the ball rolling than there is in getting it off the mark in the first instance,' notes Bohart about the different feelings she has just ahead of the 2019 Fringe compared to this time last year. 'The show is less prepared in a way that is good. I need to cut out some time, but I feel that it's looser in a positive way. Last year I was so rigid; I hadn't realised that I'd imposed so many rules on what a debut should be but now I'm free of that.'

Catherine Bohart: 'I wasn't really prepared to deal with a walkout, but if someone does walk out this year it will be fun'

Something Catherine Bohart is unlikely to be free of for a while are questions about Sarah Keyworth, and, well, this interview was no different. Both fine comics, they just so happen to be partners in life, and last year were inadvertent competitors in a way that only the Edinburgh Fringe can pit comedians against each other. With the pair being spoken of for awards recognition as the month rolled on, Keyworth ended up on the Best Newcomer shortlist while Bohart's name didn't quite join her there.

'Honestly, I was so happy that she got nominated,' Bohart says. 'She is very hard on herself and she's very brutal to herself, and she needed it both for her career and for herself as some sort of validation. She needed to know that she is good. I was very happy and relieved that she got it and when she found out that I hadn't got a nomination she burst into tears. Initially I was disappointed but I've had a good year since and it showed you don't need those things. Everybody was telling me I was going to be in contention but I didn't feel that. And the people who got nominated were all brilliant. A lot of things have come easy to me and maybe it's good that this didn't.'

In Lemon, there's a fair bit of Keyworth-baiting by Bohart who remarks that her partner is often not easy to live with (Bohart freely admits that the same can be said for herself thanks to her 'demanding and bossy and stern' ways). Amusing as it is, calling her girlfriend 'thick' might seem harsh to some observers. 'I think I get away with it because I assume that the audience will know that Sarah is really very intelligent,' insists Bohart. 'But as a partner, she's an idiot. She's so articulate, so thoughtful, and she wrote a beautiful show on gender last year, but when it comes to living with her it's like having a child. A child I love very much but one who acts out.'

So, for Catherine Bohart, what would constitute a successful Edinburgh Fringe 2019? 'Liking my show at the end of it, and being better than I was at the start of the month.' If the early taster of Lemon is anything to go by, those ambitions are very likely to be fulfilled.

Catherine Bohart: Lemon, Pleasance Courtyard, 3–25 Aug (not 13), 6pm, £9–£11.50 (£8–£10.50). Previews 31 Jul–2 Aug, £6.

Catherine Bohart: Lemon

  • 4 stars

The Irish comedian returns with her hilarious second hour about sex, relationships and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.