Loretta Maine, country and western singer and yours after a couple of drinks, is a panda-eyed, backcombed-in-the-dark, laddered-tights mess. She is drunk, angry and borderline psychopathic. She's also not real. She's the creation of Pippa Evans: regular on Radio 4 and part of any decent improv show.
The idea is to take all that C&W angst about your man done leaving you for your best friend and ramp it up to the extreme level; so now, when Loretta's man leaves her it tends to end in bloodshed or, at the very least, a restraining order. This might get old quickly so the character has been expanded beyond songs about doomed relationships, and takes in plastic surgery, vaginas and that staple of the Deep South and Deepest South London, the fried chicken shop. The observations are wry and fast, and even some of the obvious gags were snuck in with such aplomb that we didn't see them coming.
She's also technically excellent. Not many comedians can raise a laugh simply by changing a facial expression or song key. Drunk acting can flirt dangerously with being shit but there's a slickness to Loretta's act; every stumble and stammer feels like it's been tested and buffed to the point where the whole thing shines. Evans also has a voice that was born to sing country, even this bastardised form, and a knack for writing a catchy tune (we'll be humming the titular song, Bipolar, for a long while yet). At one point she's even duetting on banjo with herself. Clever and funny, Loretta's the whole package – just don't get too close, remember the restraining order.
Loretta Maine: Bipolar is at the Soho Theatre, Dean Street, until 16 March, 9.45pm. Tickets £15 / £12.50. For more information see the Soho Theatre website. We saw this show on a press ticket.