Review: Kate Berlant's Masterful Show Will Have You Crying With Laughter
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The hype around Kate Berlant's show isn't so much palpable, as repeatedly thumping you in the face.
The barperson who serves me at Soho Theatre is in a KATE t-shirt. The lift doors are wrapped in snaps of the Californian comedian posturing a la a Calvin Klein ad — the toilet doors too. A stall flogs KATE merch. In the auditorium, an onscreen countdown informs us: "Kate will begin in five minutes", followed by more black and white Kates preening and pouting. All part of the elaborate gag, of course, but you do start to think: 'I hope this show is very funny indeed...'
It is. Berlant eventually materialises as a wonkily-accented cockney stage sweeper — a nod to her smash-hit NYC show moving to London — and you know you're in safe hands. Charting the misadventures of a noob wannabe actor, KATE whisks us through evil mothers with broad Irish brogues (despite said mum being from Santa Monica), strange men with cameras in their apartment, and the summit of all actors' fears: pulling off the onscreen cry. In this plight, Berlant's elastic face contorts into shapes that Stan Laurel would be pleased with — and, ironically, has us crying tears of laughter. The one-liners, meanwhile, are subtle yet razor-sharp: "I used to shine a flashlight at the stars so I could see them better," purrs Berlant, clumsily alluding to herself, "until I realised that stars shine better in the dark..."
The whole intentional car crash is steered by the mischievous direction of Bo Burnham; flubbed sound cues, over-smoky smoke machines and mid-show breakdowns all bring more unpredictable madness to the table. Of course, you always know when you're being played... or do you?
KATE is a masterclass in lampooning self-importance in theatre, film, and cringe theatrical monologues. Speaking of which, there are definite shades of Liz Kingsman's ingenious One-Woman Show (as it happens, Kingsman just finished a run in NYC — she and Berlant are doing the ultimate comedy international exchange) — and KATE is every inch as good.
Almost every Soho Theatre comedy slot runs for 60 minutes, but KATE — as if another in-built joke about narcissism — goes to 70. If anything, that still feels too short. Get a ticket. Buy the t shirt. Believe the hype. KATE is great.
Kate Berlant: KATE, Soho Theatre, until 30 September 2023
Last Updated 06 September 2023