Festival comedy review: Suzi Ruffell - Keeping It Classy

Stand-up Suzi Ruffell takes an oblique look at her working-class background. Picture: Contributed
Stand-up Suzi Ruffell takes an oblique look at her working-class background. Picture: Contributed
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Suzi Ruffell: Keeping It Classy | Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) | Star rating: ****

Elegantly balancing witty social commentary that ought to play well on television with the sort of subtly established personal journey the Fringe admires, this breezily entertaining hour from the ever-more accomplished Suzi Ruffell belies her insecurities about merely being a “mouthy cow”.

As one of those working-class lesbians rarely heard in the media, she feels an obligation to speak up for her ain folk, to dispel the myth that all Brexit voters are salt-of-the-earth racists. Not withstanding an irksome exception and her father’s non-PC phrasing, her Portsmouth family are decent people she maintains, ensuring that her survivor’s guilt about socially advancing into London’s liberal metropolitan elite is all the more troubling.

An outlier for both her relations and the middle-class friends trying to help her, this constantly pacing, skittish, expressive comic offers vivid characterisations of her blinkered, Daily Mail-reading cousin and best friend’s mother, who invariably, and rather awkwardly, introduces her as a lesbian. Archetypal portraits, these pre-empt a poignant fantasy in which Ruffell imagines her self-help spouting friend struggling to relate to her best pal from school, a welfare-dependent single mother.

Lest she appear too preachy though, Ruffell admits that she’d rather be seen as a good person than be one, as paralysed by conflicting emotions as any of us might be when a beggar reveals himself unworthy of sympathy. Meanwhile, she relates her attempts to recover from a break-up, inspiring hapless efforts to exercise the pain away before she’s propelled back into dating. Ultimately here, in the white heat of anger at boorish misogyny, she gets to perceive herself clearly and salvage some pride.

At least, until a television breakthrough casts her back into stereotype. Angstily conceived but delivered with polished brio, this is indeed classy stand-up from an emerging star.

• Until 27 August. Today 9:45pm.