Sara Pascoe Vs History LIVE @ Brighton Dome Studio, 24.10.14

If you’re going to blank and forget your lines three times in a stand-up set, you really want to hope that your audience like you. Thankfully, Sara Pascoe had nothing to worry about there, and while it may seem unfair to open a review of a great show on a negative note, it highlights just how good and how endearing a performer she is. Leafing ever more urgently through her ream of notes, conjuring up a stream of engaging and funny patter in between “God, so sorry, this is awful!” type noises, she not only kept her head above water but managed to win the crowd’s affections even more fully than before.

Pascoe had had us onside and assured that we were in safe hands from the off, with a welcoming warmth and a wealth of stories and offbeat observations in the first few minutes. It didn’t take long to feel we’d got to know her pretty well, and that our new friend was not only a sharp and inquisitive thinker, but a natural and charming entertainer.

Rather than laying claim to any definitive answers, Pascoe puzzles over some of life’s questions, flicking through the exercise book of her mind to share with the audience her workings-out, her ideas and research, and the small but satisfying eureka moments along the way.

She isn’t one to attempt to reduce the world to simply black and white, good and bad. We have to watch that we don’t oppress the those at the heart of the issues we seek to address (for example, page three models who want to earn their living that way), she warns, admitting that the neat, one-size-fits-all answers espoused by her liberal friends on twitter do not always instinctively sit easy with her. She frees feminist concerns from the baggage of an overtly political agenda, rather presenting them as common sense – or, perhaps more accurately, sensitivity. And some of her own suggested solutions are winningly twisted triumphs of comedic thinking.

While the memory blanks revealed the scripted structure of this particular show, her ability to deal with them points to Pascoe’s experience as an improviser, something that also rears its playful head in her relish for pursuing an idea to its most amusing conclusion. Subjects including sex and relationship dynamics, reinvigorated by her admirable frankness and willingness to send herself up, become platforms from which to board some much less crowded trains of thought. It hadn’t occurred to me that my Friday night would involve a crash course in the science of sperm selection – to cite just one of the mini-lectures incorporated into the set – but there we were, carried off on tangent after tangent only to be deposited neatly back into the original thread with a fresh perspective and a punchline.

Although quite well known for her TV work, Pascoe is still a rising star in the stand-up world. However, having bagged an award and another nomination for this show in Edinburgh this summer, she can be sure that her audience now come with extra high expectations; luckily, they can be sure she will do a damn fine job of meeting them.

Rosie James