Alison Spittle ‘Worrier Princess’ | Review
Black Box, Belfast • Wednesday 24 January ’18
By Elizabeth McGeown
Out To Lunch isn’t just a cute name for a festival, chosen because a lot of their events take place at exactly that: lunchtime. Although the festival – now in its 13th year – now has its fair share of sold-out, cabaret evening events the heart is the daytime, that 1pm-2pm slot and the reason behind the name is the fact that Belfast’s Black Box provides you with a free lunch included in the ticket price, complete with canteen queue, ladles, and choice of meat or vegetarian. And it’s this free lunch comedian Alison Spittle mentions first when she takes to the stage because, as she remarks, it’s not very often you do comedy, some of it even daring to mention that most risque of events: the Ann Summers party in front of an audience munching happily away on their mushroom stroganoff and bread rolls.
It’s not just about the food though, there’s a show to be getting on with and Spittle announces: “For those of you who haven’t seen me before, prepare to be dazzled!” She’s here on her first national tour with her show Worrier Princess. For those of you at the back who misheard, it really is ‘worrier’, not ‘warrior’ and anxiety and self-esteem are touched on lightly as the show continues. Lightly, but repeatedly. From an appearance on Brendan O’Connor’s roundtable RTÉ talk show Cutting Edge when a delightful wit on Twitter tweets RTÉ (yes, the whole channel. Not just Brendan. Doesn’t do things by halves, this chap) asking why O’Connor had invited Spittle on the show, referring to her as “that fat bitch” and this is really the starting point of the show. Spittle, realising that having her own – co-written by Simon Mulholland – six-part sitcom Nowhere Fast on RTÉ will probably cause an emergence of all sorts of internet trolls, starts seeing a therapist to get herself TV-ready. Or fame-ready. Or beach-ready, as she calls it. The stories we hear for the next 50 minutes or so are the stories she told that therapist. Before firing her. For a financial disagreement that led to a lost 70 Euro and… the stories spill like this. Easily. From one to another, overlapping just slightly enough that they aren’t complete non-sequitors. There’s a brush with a ouija board and a musing on the sadness of ghosts, a shockingly endowed inflatable doll whose modesty needs to be covered with her cardigan which, she assures us, she doesn’t remove lightly, moving on to the subject of body image but then dipping away again before it stops being comedy.
These anecdotes are all really casually laid out, too. There are no grand pronouncements, it’s a normal conversation and Spittle checks in with us; if we’ve ever used a ouija board, if we’ve seen The Muppet Christmas Carol, why some of us decided not to plump for bread rolls in the canteen queue. We nod, occasionally call out, definitely laugh and she responds with the occasional stumble – because talking non-stop for an hour with just a few sips of cola is tough – and it’s just a normal lunch with a friend, right down to her giggle-snort when she thinks of the thing she is just about to tell us. It’s lunchtime, and she doesn’t have the time or the nerve to tell her “worst joke” while we’re eating, but if we want to hear it, well, we’ll have to see her again. If it’s worse than the ‘eating crisps from the clothed crotch of a relative’ joke, we will prepare to be dazzled. Maybe it was ‘warrior’ after all.
Out To Lunch Arts Festival runs to Sunday 28 January.