Comedian Sooz Kempner has come a long way since her first Fringe show in 2014. She has amassed a huge following online with hilarious musical impressions of Liza Minnelli and excoriating parodies of Nadine Dorries and is about to grow her fanbase by playing Doom, the universe’s greatest assassin, in a multi-platform series which forms part of the Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary celebrations.
Amidst all this activity, she has found time to write her tenth Fringe show: Y2K Woman. The premise of the show is that Sooz is looking back to her almost 15-year-old self in 1999 who is looking forward to the year 2000 with excitement but also some fear as the world might also be about to end with the imminent arrival of the much-hyped Millennium Bug. Now almost twenty-five years later, things are feeling strangely familiar to the comedian.
It’s a loose enough framework for Kempner to shoehorn pretty much whatever subjects she likes into the mix while still managing to build to a satisfyingly on-topic conclusion. Fortunately, Kempner has that skill of finding the funny wherever she casts her eye.
Just as the show’s stated mission acknowledges the dichotomy of fear and excited expectation in the future, her tenth show also reveals Sooz Kempner’s push and pull as a comic. She effortlessly mines her Millennium era for laugh-out-loud humour from subjects as random as dado rails, Sky Movies, Jilly Cooper, Lara Croft and a particularly well-observed thread on Napster. The nostalgia of that material feels softer and safe. It offers an easy relatability to her audience.
But there is another, more acerbic, seam in her set that feels more current and offers more risk. The inflamed response of the more ardent corners of Doctor Who fandom to her casting as Doom, her not reading the room while discovering of the death of the late Queen and Graham Linehan tweeting about her for 48 hours solidly, all lend an edge and a juicy element of jeopardy to the set.
It feels as if Kempner, after a decade of Fringe, has reached something of a crossroads in what she wants her shows to be. She earns belly laughs in ways other comics can only dream of. She has a singing prowess that is invariably accompanied by the sound of audience jaws hitting the floor. She skilfully constructs a hugely entertaining hour of comedy. But there’s an unreconciled divide between the likeably-relatable and the fiercely-impassioned Kempner that leaves Y2K Woman on the absolute verge of brilliance.
Meanwhile, to paraphrase the words of that Y2K musical icon, Alanis Morissette… you oughta go! ★★★★ 4 stars
(This show was reviewed at Bridge House Theatre during London previews)