Tiff Stevenson makes a bold entrance; resplendent in leopard print leggings, red knee high cowboy boots, and an old tour t-shirt (circa 1990, if ageing eyes can be in any way trusted). “I identify as a ten!” she proclaims, and one instantly sits straighter in one’s seat. The tone is set instantly; a quest to find some solid ground in the shifting sands of identity politics. As an opening gambit it’s barbed and bolshy, yet indicative of a deeper awareness of the internecine semantic squabbling that can smother the wider aims of progressive discourse.
It’s a brave opening, and a deceptively complex one. There is defiant pride and the assertion that you can be what you want to be. The deliberately incongruous outfit invites another response (although Tiff herself won’t have a word said against leopard print). How you outwardly appear to others is not how you see yourself. It’s a really economical, elegant way of establishing a central theme of your show.
From the off, Bombshell is a show of utter conviction, which avoids the excesses of polemic for the most part. Stevenson wields the mic as a weapon as much as a tool, and there are moments where the passion can be read in her eyes from the back of her room. In those moments she retains absolute attention even if there’s occasionally a slight gap in between punchlines.
As she establishes in the opening moments, one of Stevenson’s biggest strengths is picking at dropped stitches in her progressive views. Musing on her knee jerk suspicion of a Muslim gentleman on the London tube in the wake of the London Bridge attack, she reflects on how years of a liberal outlook can be instantly threatened by a moment of panic, and just how insidious the fear of the other instilled by certain sources can be. That she doesn’t communicate this to any other passengers so as not to appear impolite demonstrates her keen knack of finding the comedy sweet spot in a serious topic.
Stevenson is remarkably confident and direct performer, and there are absolutely no signs of opening night glitches to be ironed out later in the run. Bombshell is an excellent hour of incisive political comedy. There isn’t always a punchline every minute, but that is a very minor criticism indeed.