Catherine Cohen: The Twist...? She's Gorgeous, Pleasance Courtyard - Beneath ****
“Hot mess” seems an outmoded label for fabulous chanteuse Catherine Cohen. Because if, as she purringly declares, she’s the voice of her generation, this millennial New Yorker has apparently absorbed and erased the boundaries of ironically detached performance. Gilt-edged glamorous and off-the-cuff witty from the get-go, her stream-of-consciousness is at once exotic, pretentious and Instagram-speak moronic. The tragic subtext of cabaret convention is replaced with a completely upfront admission of how problematic but weirdly wonderful her life is. Just witness her feline flirtation with a male latecomer, the one-sided power plays and status games back and forth as he sits stupefied.
Accompanied by the dutiful, permanently amused Henry Koperski on keyboard, she launches into her introductory number, tracking a lack of male attention at school through to her comedy career. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a fine singer with a wholly justified presumption of star status. Yet as her thoughts gush forth, you intuit that as an audience, we’re also very much cast in the role of reassuring therapist.
A hot summer anthem becomes a desperate plea to be whisked up into a whirl of social engagements. And Cohen reiterates her need for absolutely any kind of male interaction. Naturally, her relationship with men is complicated, and a Yuletide ballad takes violent revenge on the Santa Baby school of presumptive handsiness. In one important regard Cohen is an absolute throwback, a trouper of the old school, unable to extricate her winning smile from the pain and bewilderment. An hour in her company is a unique and confusing delight.JAY RICHARDSON Until 25 August