Jan Ravens: Difficult Woman (4 stars)

This article is from 2017

Jan Ravens: Difficult Woman

Joyful and poignant hour from impressionist extraordinaire

Already one of the hottest tickets at this year's festival, Jan Ravens might have been tempted to coast along on her reputation as one of Britain's top impressionists and deliver something safe and unimaginative. But dismiss her at your peril: this show from the Spitting Image and Dead Ringers star is a joy from start to finish, a gleeful mix of top-notch impressions and pointed political comedy.

Ravens is on a quest to reclaim the term 'difficult woman', the phrase with which Ken Clarke famously branded Theresa May last year, and she spends much of this show calling out sexism where she sees it, in politics and in the media. Plenty of political figures get a look in, from the Prime Minister and Nicola Sturgeon to Diane Abbott and Angela Merkel.

Merkel, in fact, is Ravens' weakest turn and the sympathetic note she ends on will probably gall some of Theresa May's more virulent opponents. But these limper moments are pretty forgettable, eclipsed by the slickness of the rest of the show's remainder. Watch out for a particularly pointed routine of Joanna Lumley filming a 'travel documentary' in Mosul, ignoring the carnage around her. Best of all is a heartbreaking ode to Victoria Wood, who passed away in the Year of Doom (aka 2016), which brings more than a few tears to the eye: hers, and ours.

Unsurprisingly, Difficult Woman is pretty Radio 4 in its tone; indeed, when she asks the audience how many in here are Radio 4 listeners, the majority raise their hands. But even in potentially tired material about getting older, Jan Ravens is a gutsy comic and a remarkable entertainer, with one of the most satisfying hours at this year's Fringe.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 27 Aug (not 16), 7pm (plus 14 Aug, 8.15pm), £12–£14 (£10–£13). Extra shows at Gilded Balloon at the Museum, 12, 19, 26 Aug, 4.30pm, £14 (£12).

Jan Ravens: Difficult Woman

  • 4 stars

CKP & ROAR Group present The Dead Ringers star in her much anticipated debut Edinburgh show. Ravens brilliantly observes an array of contemporary characters, including Theresa May and Diane Abbott. Razor-sharp satire delivered with startling virtuosity. 'Consummate impressionist' (Times). Age category: 14+