Alice Fraser is already on stage as we come in, her back to the audience, as she waits for what must be nearly ten minutes for us all to take our seats. It’s sold out and 10pm on a Wednesday so the audience is a mix of young people, several generations of families, and groups of middle-aged men holding pints. The first thing we notice about Fraser is that she is dressed up like some sort of pantomime wicked witch with a penchant for S&M. The outfit shown on her Empire poster (see the pic below) is about 10% as crazy as the outfit she is wearing on stage tonight. It’s made up of latex and leather – a brave choice given she’ll be stuck wearing it for the rest of the August.
Fraser is so immediate and confident that everyone in the audience has no choice but to be swept along in her act. Well, almost everyone. A guy beside me in his Ben Sherman polo shirt sits with his arms folded for the entire show, only moving to drink his pint. I’ve only seen this behaviour from men when they go to see female comedians. They sit back and almost mime “come on, try and impress me”. It’s probably too complicated to get into now, but seeing this attitude displayed so blatantly was another stark reminder of the sexism that most of us like to think we’ve moved past.
Not that any of that affects Fraser’s act, nor the enjoyment for anybody else in the room, who are all falling around in hysterics. She’s a whirlwind of complex narratives that come quick and fast, just managing to cling to coherency. She gives us a lot to absorb at once and I’ve found myself revisiting some moments of the show a day later as my slow brain catches up. Her Buddhism, the relationship with her father, the blandness of Disney heroes vs the awesomeness of their villains, funerals, and even some quantum physics to bind it all together – and we even end on a song, a random audience member receiving a personal banjo serenade.
Like I said, a whirlwind.
Alice Fraser’s Empire runs until 28th August at the Gilded Balloon Teviot, 22:00.