fri 10/04/2020

Jen Brister, Soho Theatre review - parenting, privilege and porn under scrutiny | reviews, news & interviews

Jen Brister, Soho Theatre review - parenting, privilege and porn under scrutiny

Jen Brister, Soho Theatre review - parenting, privilege and porn under scrutiny

Domestic anecdotes and political insights

Jen Brister gives an energetic performance in her latest showIdil Sukan

Jen Brister loves her five-year-old twin boys, she is at pains to tell us, even when they have a major meltdown and, like Little Lord Fauntleroys, refuse to eat broken biscuits.

Jen Brister loves her five-year-old twin boys, she is at pains to tell us, even when they have a major meltdown and, like Little Lord Fauntleroys, refuse to eat broken biscuits. Stories like these are sprinkled throughout her new show, Under Privilege, in which she describes trying to instil proper values in children who, she hopes, will probably never know any life struggles, and the broader issue of what privilege is.

There’s a lot of domestic detail in the show, and Brister is disarmingly honest about the irritations of parenting – although, she says drily, she dodged a bullet by not being the biological parent (“I'm not stupid”) – and the mind-numbing boredom of looking after children who endlessly repeat each thought and phrase, and expect high fives for completing the simplest tasks. The parents in the room laughed in recognition at those anecdotes.

There's another layer to her concerns about the twins; as ”woke lesbians” she and her partner want the boys to have comfortable lives, but not be “entitled bellends” as white males in a society where those attributes still carry weight. But she fears their work may be cut out as one is already showing signs of being a chauvinist, and the other of misogyny. “I feel like an abused waitress at TGI Friday's,” she says.

She contrasts the hoops modern parents jump through for their little darlings with reminiscences of her own, stricter, childhood (her Spanish mother is a welcome ever-present in Brister’s comedy). While today’s kids get to choose what to eat, Brister’s question of what was for dinner was always met with the response “dinner”.

Brister also talks about porn, the generational divide on pubic hair, middle-class hypocrisy (you can’t be liberal and holiday in certain places, for instance) and why Greta Thunberg gets up certain's middle-aged men's noses. There is some insightful material here as she develops an interesting narrative about how we all, in some way, have a degree of privilege, however oppressed we may feel.

She makes a telling point that freedoms that have to be fought for are not freedoms at all, because they can be taken away. The lengthy routine about labiaplasty, however, veers dangerously towards earnest, even preachy, before she brings it back with an inspired payoff. There are occasional longueurs despite an energetic performance, but Brister is on fine form and the gag quotient is high.

  • Jen Brister is at Soho Theatre, London until 15 February; then touring until 18 May
She contrasts the hoops modern parents jump through for their little darlings with reminiscences of her own, stricter, childhood

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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