Comedy review: Zoë Coombs Marr: Trigger Warning

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As she did for blokeish rape joke comedy, Zoë Coombs Marr now does for the trend of stand-ups studying clowning at the Philippe Gaulier school in Paris, sending up the genre from inside the belly of the beast through her execrable alter-ego Dave.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61)

A misogynist comic trading in clichés about the clitoris, he’s lately found the ongoing indifference in the clubs and opprobrium from feminists too much, so signed up to find his inner clown with all the desperation of a dying species grasping desperately at anything as a way to evolve. Brought to the verge of breakdown by Gaulier’s brutal teaching methods, his whimsical mime stylings to the sound of the Amelie soundtrack are naturally dreadful.

So far, so very in-jokey about the comedy industry. But Coombs Marr has only just embarked upon the persecution and unpicking of her creation. For it emerges that Dave’s clown is a thirty-something lesbian named Zoë. And what follows is a series of apparently never-ending leaps between the two, with the Australian forging a succession of crazed, sometimes hallucinatory realities that feature both struggling to assert supremacy.

Mesmerising and intense, it’s an outstanding performance from Coombs Marr that compels with the wonder of how far she can take the Inception-style dimensions-within-dimensions, and whether she’ll be able to keep it entertaining. Happily, she confounds all expectations, sustaining the laughter, satirical verve and sheer daring even as the madness escalates to truly uncomfortable levels.

Where she can take Dave after this is anybody’s guess. For now though, it must be acknowledged that she’s applying an audacity towards stand-up and drag that’s unmatched, showing a foresight and invention undreamed of in her peers’ wildest nightmares.

Until 28 August. Today 6:50pm.

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