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Josie Long: Something Better review

| Comedy | 14/10/2016

Josie Long
© Giles Smith

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

With her infectious, left-leaning and hugely entertaining show about hope and despair, Long injects a burst of optimism into an uncertain vein.

It doesn’t take long to like Josie Long.  For most, it happens pre-show as she greets her audience from the stage and dances unpretentiously to her favourite songs.  For others, it’s when she formally begins, quickly exaggerating a host of physical, mental and professional flaws.  The point is: unless your spirit is particularly mean, Long will win you over, make you belly laugh and – at least in some small way – cause you to reflect on her left-wing beliefs, which form a significant part of the show.

Something Better concerns Long’s crisis of confidence.  She’s approaching 35 and her party, Labour, is tearing itself apart after a disastrous general election.  Then she became single, after which … Brexit happened.  “Brexit, Brexit, Brexit,” she sighs, returning to the topic repeatedly.  The vote hit Long for six, totally ruining her summer – even Glastonbury.  “It meant I couldn’t even take joy,” she reflects, “from seeing ‘fun mums’ wearing angel wings, off their face on MDMA in front of their kids.”

Despite its premise, the show’s accessible to non-Guardian readers, so don’t let that put you off (unless you’re especially sensitive).  Long tries to understand those across the political divide and seeks to avoid demonising Leave voters.  The only ones she can’t stand are ‘Lefty Brexiteers’ who, she says, seem like someone chomping on a kiwi fruit like an apple: “Of course it’s permissible, but it shows you KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE WORLD.”

That’s as dismissive as Long gets, carefully balancing the heaviness of her politics with plenty of whimsy, including an extended and almost unfathomably funny To Kill A Mockingbird routine.  You can’t even criticise her for being over-earnest, given she recognises it at every turn, dampening her hand-wringing with whingy voices (“Why don’t you like Jeremy Corbyn?”) and flippancy (“I get Brexiteers’ concerns, but why don’t you want me to go on an Erasmus scheme at Aarhus University?”).

Part of that comes from the fact that – despite her obvious commitment – Long’s fairly new to politics, as she told me here.  It’s therefore not so much her beliefs she displays, as her infectious enthusiasm, which she also applies to a new-found love for Adele and Pinot Grigio (expect the neo-ladette phrase “Get on The Griig!” to catch on soon).  And maybe that’s why this tour should prove a success: because despite all that’s wrong, everyone needs a bit more optimism right now and Long’s perfectly-placed to provide it.

Josie Long performs Something Better at Soho Theatre tonight and tomorrow at 21.15.  For tickets, head here.  After a stint in New York, she will tour the show across the UK in 2017.  To keep up to speed on Josie’s latest projects, see her official website or follow her on Twitter @JosieLong.

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