Review: Mary Bourke – Hail Mary! – The Stand (4), Edinburgh.
So many people want to see Hail Mary! that extra chairs are required in Stand 4. Then into the sweltering heat steps Mary Bourke, her slight frame hunched over the microphone. “This is not a typical Fringe show,” she informs the audience, her lilting Irish accent barely carrying over the crowded room, “there won’t be any emotional interlude 20 minutes in, there won’t a personal journey to share, there will just be jokes.”
Bourke isn’t lying. Rattling off punch lines quicker than an express train, it is often difficult to keep up. Allied to her material is a cutting wit, neat turns of phrase decorating topics as diverse as A.A Gill, 90s hip hop disputes and an unpleasant experience in a Travelodge.
Twitter is an increasingly used medium for comedians to test their new material. Mary herself knows this, but has decided to try it on a live audience. Delegating a grumpy Dunfermline based punter as the ‘master of tweets’, Bourke invites her spectators to judge her latest work. The result is a madcap profusion of short gags, with the unsuccessful applicants thrown haphazardly around the room in what is a fun twist on the technology craze.
The use of one liners, however, is not the only technique Bourke is able to bring into her act. A feminist perspective gives her material shape, particularly in a strong section concerning ‘edgy’ comedians. It’s clear that the label of ‘female comic’ bothers her, much of her ire reserved for the Irish edition of the Daily Mail. A middle-class baiting rant about Mumsnet goes down a storm, too, as Bourke plays on a spite-driven inferiority complex to humorous effect.
Unfortunately, disaster strikes halfway through. The noisy air conditioning unit in the back of the room has been drowning out her voice, prompting a member of the crowd to turn off the device. Noticing it is becoming unbearably hot, Mary requests the unit to be turned back on. Bourke is sharp enough to avoid this hurdle, able to keep momentum with a professional grace, but the incident highlights the downfall of her act. Her whispery, heavily accented delivery is often hard to trace as she machine guns her way through her material, leaving some audience members in the dark as they strain their ears.
That being said, Bourke saves her best till last. A tale concerning a rude American comedian is a delight, while hilarious excerpts are found in a certain popular erotic novel. Those who have yet to read it will find unexpected comedy gold within the pages, perhaps spoiling the intended effect.
Mary Bourke isn’t re-inventing the wheel with Hail Mary!, but is instead providing a neat, tidy hour of Irish banter that is sure to raise a mid afternoon laugh. Sharp, wicked humour is delivered with consummate professionalism – and if you’re lucky, you might even get a badge.
Date of live review: Saturday 11th August 2012.