Josie Long: Work-in-Progress review

July 29, 2014, Article by Richard in Reviews, Theatre & Comedy

I walked past Josie Long in the street the other day. We made eye contact and I thought, ‘That’s Josie Long! . . . And now I’m looking at her. What are you doing? Stop looking at her.’ Hopefully she wasn’t too freaked out, and it was a somewhat fitting moment given that her new Edinburgh show, which I saw in preview at the Invisible Dot, is by far her most personal.

The last couple of years have seen Long in full righteous ire mode, railing against a government she hates, trying to remain proactive in the face of adversity. In her new show, Cara Josephine, the adversity comes in the form of her broken heart. Having fallen for her archetypal man yet again, only to fall into the same traps as before, she finds herself losing faith in love full stop. Her desperation to remain optimistic whilst still in the grips of heartbreak leads to she show’s beautiful, paradoxically optimistic yet pessimistic catchphrase, ‘If you don’t die, something good might happen!’

Long’s realisation that to explore this fully means having to talk about things she never would on stage – sex, family history – leads to some interesting tension. She admits that with each performance she isn’t finding it any easier. As if to combat that fear, Long tackles it with same determination she uses when throwing herself into freezing rivers, by unleashing a story which is so intimate, so personal and so hilarious that it’s worth the ticket price alone (especially so given the best JFK/Oliver Stone reference you’ll ever see).

Amongst the confessional and personal, there is still room for some trademark Josie Long silliness – it’s excellent to see her 1930s Film Noir voice making another appearance, and there was some physical comedy in an imagined encounter with Nigel Farage which nearly took the roof off.  There was also hand-drawn prop, natch, but whereas in the past she has perhaps relied too much on such devices, this felt very much like a neat extra.

In the end, it’s family who Long turns to – her sister and her brilliantly ballsy attitude to love and men, her mum’s thoughtfulness, these are the things she can rely on.

There’s still time for some playful manipulation of the audience’s emotions, so conditioned as we are to expect the perfect end to the narrative. In short, it’s glorious to see Long turn her attention to herself. I’m sure she’ll go back to the political at some stage, but this other side to her comedy is thrilling. It’d be gobsmacking if she wasn’t nominated for the main award at the festival this year…

Josie Long’s show, Cara Josephine, is at The Stand, Edinburgh: Aug 1-10, 12-14, 17-24

Buy tickets here
Follow Josie on twitter: @JosieLong