‘One of the hottest young stars in Irish comedy,” blares Emma Doran’s publicity. How nice to be so called while also being parent to a 20-year-old daughter. How this situation came to pass is the matter of Doran’s show Mad Isn’t It, which introduces the Dubliner – a rising star at home via her viral lockdown videos – to London audiences.
Most will be happy to make the acquaintance: 10 years a standup, Doran is an assured presence onstage, with a pleasing streak of wickedness underpinning her tales of delinquent youth and equally delinquent motherhood. Mad Isn’t It doesn’t attempt anything outlandish: it’s in the vein of those autobiographical calling-card sets with which standups often launch their solo-show careers. But Doran’s life story doesn’t want for comical raw material, and she brings to it a diverting sharpness and lack of sentimentality.
Take for example her account of the “ancient Irish technique” of the “silent ride”, practised with a new beau in the attic of her family home. Or the closing story of her almost immaculate conception, aged only 18, on a fairground waltzer. Sex looms large for a woman whose dreams of promiscuity were thwarted both by sheepishness about her ginger pubes then, more terminally, by teenage pregnancy.
All this unfolds against the backdrop of an Ireland where her parents’ abstinence from alcohol was seen as deeply suspect, and where schoolgirls spoke of their periods in hushed tones, if at all. But Doran doesn’t labour the social commentary: she herself stays centre-stage, maturing (just about) into a young mother-of-three doomed to wallflower at perpetual children’s parties. That routine showcases Doran at her best, making reprobate common cause with the wildest of her kids’ friends, before an anticlimactic ending.
There are a few of those in a show, from a caustic but very composed performer, that’s never wild itself. Something feels withheld: Doran’s story, she tells us, proves that bad times can be recovered from. But the times she describes – twinkling, wryly amused – don’t feel that bad. It’s not a deeply felt show, then – but it’s an entertaining one.
At Soho theatre, London, until 7 June
The post Emma Doran review – wickedly funny tales of delinquency appeared first on The Guardian.