Glasgow Comedy Festival review: Susie McCabe, King’s Theatre, Glasgow

The Merchant of Menace is Susie McCabe’s most nakedly personal show to date, writes Jay Richardson, and her best by some distance

Susie McCabe: The Merchant of Menace, King’s Theatre, Glasgow ****

As Susie McCabe’s profile has risen and her stand-up grows ever more assured, her willingness to divulge her vulnerabilities has increased too. And this, her most nakedly personal show to date is also by some distance her best. Superficially, The Merchant of Menace fits squarely into the “muddle class” genre of observational comedy practised by the likes of Micky Flanagan, Jason Manford, Rob Beckett and Glasgow’s very own Kevin Bridges, whereby a working-class stand-up questions their life since they've socially elevated themselves. Still straddling the divide, capable of teasing where they are and where they've come from, they focus on the clashes between their assigned and acquired culture and behaviour.

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McCabe is as skilled in this discipline as anyone, with her honeymoon at the swanky Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh and the rigid, class-coded signifiers of different British supermarkets a gift to her gleeful eye for novel detail and storytelling panache. She elicits big, escalating laughs from the description of her hotel receptionist's affluent smile, in stark contrast to the wickedly exaggerated descriptions of the down, dirty and desperate places she stays in while on tour.

Yet while class remains the chief preoccupation for this accessible show with mainstream appeal, McCabe's take-me-as-I-am attitude extends to her gamely trying (and not always succeeding) to bridge divides of sexuality, gender, generations, religion and even alternative medicine.

She doesn't suffer fools, seething at an interloper into her female friendship group, and blasts pretension. But her warmth and openness to difference, her sharing of her mental quirks and physical ailments, makes her both a classic insider-outsider and hugely endearing, with the audience affording her plenty of love back.

When the show turns, in her outrage at having to ever say sorry for who she is and with an unprecedentedly poetic snarl at those sitting in the grandest offices in the land who genuinely have grounds to apologise, she’s already burnished her everyperson credentials, and delivers a more impactful ending as a result.