thu 21/11/2019

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 review: Arabella Weir - Does My Mum Loom Big In This? | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 review: Arabella Weir - Does My Mum Loom Big In This?

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 review: Arabella Weir - Does My Mum Loom Big In This?

Fringe debut on her overbearing mother feels too polite to confront its own darkness

Arabella Weir: abundant wit and charm plus beautifully turned phrases in her first Fringe show

If nothing else, Arabella Weir quips, she can thank her mother for providing the material for her first Fringe show. For Does My Mum Loom Big In This? (see what she did there) is the Fast Show and Two Doors Down actor/comedian’s reflections on motherhood, both her own to her two now twentysomething kids, but more importantly, that of her own mother – posh Scottish, Weir tells us, Oxford-educated, and permanently dissatisfied by the appearance, intellect and achievements of her disappointment of a daughter.

So we duly discover the eccentricities of Weir Snr’s behaviour, from moaning about being bored by her teenage daughter’s trivial conversations with adolescent friends to – far more worryingly – glossing over and victim-blaming at an appalling incident in her daughter’s childhood.

But Weir is honest, too, about her own weaknesses, and about how her own desire for approval and acceptance (she puts her performing career down to seldom receiving praise as a child) has appalled her own children. She even gets deflated by her three-year-old daughter for getting too enthusiastic after a mundane request.

So far, so confessional. And there’s plenty of good stuff, too, about the privileged, unquestioned positions of men in all of this – a memory of a childhood friend being reprimanded for borrowing her own mother’s pink jumper is especially memorable, if not downright horrifying. Weir is good, too, on the sometimes unreasonable demands of motherhood, and her own often misguided attempts to get down with her kids.

The elephant in the room – to borrow one of the phrases that Weir co-opts – is that DMMLBIT stays resolutely chipper and chucklesome throughout, never really daring to portray the older woman as anything more than a bitchy snob. Weir jumps from anecdote to anedcote, but it feels like we’re never really getting to grips with the painful effects the relationship has had on her. When other comedians seem eager to deliver up their most distressing experiences for audience consumption – whatever the ethics of that – Weir feels simply too tame in her revelations to be truly convincing.

Her delivery, too, though leisurely paced and confident, feels too scripted and rehearsed to connect on an immediate level with the audience – though that connection might grow organically as the show develops. There’s no mistaking Weir’s abundant charm and warm, engaging personality, and she skewers issues with a beautifully turned phrase. But DMMLBIT feels like that odd thing, a show that’s almost too polite and well-meaning to confront its own darkness.

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