It’s possible that we’ve subconsciously absorbed how a Fringe show should look, or at least the format of a Fringe comedy show has evolved to a certain point, that any that don’t adhere to it feels jarring. That feels like the case of Cara Connors‘ ‘Straight for Pay’, a deeply idiosyncratic hour that will definitely not be for everyone, but which deserves attention just for going so determinedly against the grain.
‘Straight for Pay’ is essentially about Cara’s young adulthood, when she got married despite her sexuality. One divorce later and she’s embraced her queerness. She’s still not exactly comfortable in her own skin though, which she puts down to childhood Catholicism (damaging as measles, that stuff) and being of both Irish and Greek stock, which makes her skin very, very pale, and her hair very, very dark.
Sounds fairly standard you might think. Not a bit of it. Connors presents her show in jagged slices; recognisable as normal routine but her oddball style is what makes this such a wild show. Connors’ energy levels are insane, and she has a rangy physicality that sees her bounding round the room or contorting herself into all manner of shapes at the drop of a hat. It’s clear to see that the presentation of her material is not what the audience is used to. She seems unwilling to build up any real momentum, preferring to veer off on another skip tot around the room, or break up a punchline into alternating seductive whispers and banshee bellows.
Perhaps it’s because American comedy isn’t as beholden to the idea of the one-hour, almost three-act narrative that’s developed precisely to accommodate a run at the Fringe. Or more likely Connors just dances to the beat of her own drum. She brings to mind the gurning and vocal trickery of a young Jim Carrey, and even more willing to estrange a crowd in service of whatever nebulous muse she’s following. Often she’ll stop entirely, demonstrating an impressive confidence in her ability to hold a room by the sheer force of her personality. She’s content to soak up the silence for long seconds, which would be unthinkable for most.
Cara can clearly tell that she doesn’t have all the crowd along with her, and she feigns dismay but you can see her constantly reading the room. In all honesty, it’s difficult to remain entirely invested in all of her material, even if it’s easy to respect how out-there she’s willing to go. She’s a singular performer and that’s to be admired and when a joke hits, it hits hard. You might not be entirely enamoured with Cara Connors style, but you definitely won’t be bored.
‘Straight for Pay’ runs until Sun 27 Aug 2023 at Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker One at 21:55