Edinburgh Fringe review: Katie Mulgrew, Happily Ever After
If the title of Katie Mulgrew’s show didn’t give you enough of a clue as to its theme, she underlines it by bounding onto stage with dyed, bright red hair, a Little Mermaid t-shirt, green leggings and a tiara. If you don’t like Disney films, it might be a good idea to run away now.
Still here? Good, because the loveable Rochdale escapee has actually put together an enjoyable, lively and very funny show about what it means to be a woman in a post-Frozen era. She uses the Disney theme as a fairly compelling hook to talk about her life, her mild anxiety about turning 30 and what- if anything- is meant by the term ‘happy ending’.
She peppers these observations with genuinely funny gags that add a pleasing note of sharpness to an act that could otherwise be a bit too saccharine and cuddly. Mulgrew is extremely friendly, warm and bouncy – more like a real life Care Bear than a princess- so her barbed, witty asides are very welcome and prevent the show turning into a cutesy love in.
Her anecdotes are all extremely relatable and – in typical Northern style- she frequently makes herself the butt of her own jokes. A story about a trip to ludicrously posh Edinburgh restaurant The Witchery is a particular highlight.
Anyone who has ever been to a snobbish eaterie with a broad accent and a penchant for being slightly loud, playing games with prawns and getting drunk on neat spirits will definitely relate to her entertaining story.
Even if that doesn’t describe you (if so, presumably you’re posh and know what goes into a martini) you’ll still laugh thanks to her pitch perfect timing and accomplished way of drawing you in to her circle of confidence. Despite the wide range of ages and backgrounds represented by her audience there’s something for everyone to relate to, from the 80s nostalgia that liberally peppers the show, to the sheer, brain melting frustration of attempting to draw up a seating plan for a wedding.
Another solid, crowd pleasing section of Happily Ever After describes her honeymoon in –but of course- Disney World in Florida. You have to feel sorry for every single one of the actresses who patrol the grounds dressed as Disney princesses, because it seems Mulgrew drunkenly accosted almost all of them during her stay. Whatever they were paying Cinderella, it really wasn’t worth it.
She also uses the princess/marriage theme to discuss the various expectations placed on women-particularly women from Rochdale with a Northern Irish mother. This in turn allows Mulgrew to wax lyrical about the importance of feminism and rejecting gender stereotyping, which is slightly surprising coming from someone who learned most of her life lessons from The Little Mermaid.
The show could benefit from spending a little more time on these important topics, and a little less on sections that repeatedly bounce up and down on our nostalgia glands like an hour long version of one of those ‘I Heart The 80s’ talking head shows, but that’s a fairly minor criticism of what – all in all- is a pretty great hour of comedy.
Date of live review: 8 August 2014 @ Gilded Balloon Turret