Comedy review: Tessa Coates: Witch Hunt, Pleasance Courtyard

Tessa Coates puts her degree to work in this new show. Picture: Contributed
Tessa Coates puts her degree to work in this new show. Picture: Contributed
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There are countless comedians out there bemoaning their useless degree, with only marginally fewer throwing good money after bad performing an entire Fringe show based around it.

Tessa Coates: Witch Hunt, Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) ****

Tessa Coates has doubled down with her anthropology studies after last year’s hour about being an animal, with another show featuring some interesting facts about our furry friends that’s considerably more focused on being human.

Witch Hunt isn’t set up like a TED Talk, though. Rather it’s a personal story and social commentary supplemented with judiciously sprinkled insights into behaviour.

Contrasting the security of her university friends who found well-paid jobs, and the rampant positivity she encountered in Los Angeles, Coates has always struggled with her identity, her mother’s theories about everything seldom a reassurance. Breezy and animated, as befits a sometime sketch performer, she’s adroit at act-outs illustrating her insecurities. Yet while there are some compelling anecdotes about Coates’ audition for Saturday Night Takeaway and her inappropriate poetry recital as a six-year-old, along with some genuinely fascinating stuff about our deep, so-called lizard brain, the show really kicks into gear when she starts to examine gender.

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Beginning with the familiar but no doubt highly influential sexism of Disney films, she relates a depressingly regressive encounter with 21st-century laddism that caused her to snap, the communication breakdown reflective of a more widespread social malaise.

Recalling a time when she too might have been more progressive in bolstering someone’s self-identity, Coates then powerfully dismisses the victimhood claimed by alleged celebrity sex pests, arguing for the failure of language in conveying women’s historical oppression.

With droll wit, Witch Hunt benefits greatly from Coates’ easy marriage of light and shade, making her points in an accessible and entertaining way.

• Until 26 August, 3:30pm