Spanning several popular stand-up themes – a young comic kicking against an older relative’s regressive views; that same comic returning to spend an enforced period of adulthood with their parents; an outsider’s perspective on contrasting cultures; and confronting a life-changing personal setback – Janine Harouni’s debut still manages to be an organic masterpiece of storytelling, rich in fond detail, intricately woven together.
Stand Up with Janine Harouni (Please Remain Seated), Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh * * * *
A jobbing actor living in the UK for seven years, she’s from Staten Island, New York, raised in its blue collar, religious, outspoken and conservative traditions, exemplified by her parents’ views on sex before marriage and her father’s homophobia. Partially of Arab stock, but passing as an Italian-American, she’s been oddly privy to Islamophobia since 9/11. And having seen a bit of the world, she’s converted to a liberal perspective, ensuring that she frequently butts heads with her family. Even so, her parents confound their stereotyping, with Harouni’s feelings towards her father in particular complicated by his good deeds, extending to some exceptional altruism. When tragedy strikes, the family instinctively pulls together. But some differences still need to be bridged.
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As origin stories go, Stand Up is an absolute belter, with Harouni covering plenty of ground in her unhurriedly paced, sure-footed account. Characters are brought vividly to life through their actions rather than cluttering exposition. And her sardonic wit capably offsets the emotional tug of its latter moments. Previously known as part of sketch trio Muriel, her fast rising stand-up career seems destined to instantly eclipse it. She might imply that living in the UK has jaded her into comedy but she demonstrates plenty of the dramatist’s art in this uplifting and very funny hour.
Until 25 August