Review: Jo Caulfield: Thinking Bad Thoughts – The Stand (1), Edinburgh.
It may not surprise you to learn that Jo Caulfield has been having some bad thoughts recently. She cannot fathom why anyone would want to make friends on holiday, the chatty woman serving in the queue at Waitrose needs to be taught a lesson and she has been reduced to second billing by a famous soup. Thinking Bad Thoughts marks a Fringe return after a brief hiatus last year, and Jo has some issues she thinks need ironing out.
Head constantly swivelling, Caulfield fixes her beady eyes on her audience. Crowd interaction is kept short, pithy put-downs fired in a quick, engaging style. Clipboard in hand, Jo runs through a list of things that have bothered her over the past two years. Her vitriolic rants are delivered in a sharp, sardonic manner, the niceties of decent society given a short shrift here.
Caulfield has a strain of jet black comedy running through her material, deploying it strategically and eliciting loud guffaws from an appreciative crowd. It is a potent weapon, elevating parts of her routine into golden territory. You will never watch Newsnight in the same way again. Political considerations are also lurking, American policy skewered through the lens of poor customer service as the comedian pens her complaint.
The conversational style suits the mood of the show, Caulfield skilfully massaging the egos of the audience before delivering another caustic blow. Stories are interesting, short and varied, never allowed to drag on past their sell by date and occasionally revealing a lighter, more human side to the performer. The perils of using the same toilet as your audience are explored, while it is inventively explained exactly why women just can’t enjoy porn as much as men.
Unfortunately, some topics seem to be rehashed for easy laughs. The battle of the sexes is lengthily discussed, yet much of the content is forgettable. It is not that the section is unfunny, just simply that it pales in comparison with the original material that makes the show so enjoyable. A rant about clothes shops also comes across as a little specific, some of the less fashion conscious left a little lost.
All in all, though, Thinking Bad Thoughts is a thoroughly enjoyable, slightly twisted take on modern life. Though punctuated with sarcastic, bitter barbs, Caulfield nevertheless retains enough warmth to draw her audience into her cosy, baleful world. Though she is guilty of the occasional bad thought, she is just a big softie really.
Date of live review: Thursday 9th August 2012.