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Live / stage review

"Beautifully chaotic": Jessica Fostekew at the Leadmill

Watching a comedian with the experience, intuition and honesty of Jess Fostekew is a pleasure.

A woman stands on a stage against a blue background. She has a quizzical expression on her face.

Jessica Fostekew at the Leadmill

Philippa Willitts

When I spoke to Jessica Fostekew in January, she called herself a “chaos lady”, and her Leadmill show last night confirmed her self-assessment. The important thing, though, is that that’s no bad thing.

Don’t let the beautifully chaotic energy fool you, though. Fostekew knows what she is doing and skilfully holds the room.

On a bare stage, with self-deprecating humour and tension-breaking silliness, Fostekew deftly leads us through stories and ideas, with absurd tangents softening the more uncompromising themes without detracting from them. Her years of experience as a comic are evident as she takes fans through silliness, seriousness, and are-they-off-the-cuff-or-is-she-just-great-at-making-it-look-off-the-cuff streams of consciousness. She rarely loses the audience – and on the odd occasion she does, she turns that into a joke, too.

Hannah Gadsby’s famous Douglas show let the world into the secret of comedians building and releasing tension in their audiences, and Jessica artfully demonstrates this as she trails an upcoming controversial opinion throughout the show, testing us by mixing material that is quite confronting, with diversions around Married at First Sight (I’m a fan) and Gladiators (unusually, for a lesbian, I’m not so much).

Mettle is a political show, but it is not uncomfortably earnest. It is personal while not feeling intrusive. It is genuinely funny and watching a comedian with the experience, intuition and honesty of Jess Fostekew is a pleasure.

There’s always a slight anxiety about going to a stand-up show to see a comedian you mostly know through social media snippets, but with Jessica Fostekew, the audience has nothing to worry about. Her experience and delivery quickly assure you are in safe hands, so you can sit back and enjoy the laughs.

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