The anti-meditative looped tape that beckons us into this darkened corner of the Banshee Labyrinth promises spooky goodness: ‘Did you know you could hear a smile in the dark? No, don’t think about that.’ We’re set up to be creeped out, so when Ruth Hunter and the Ruth Hunter finally resolves into something closer to a straight stand-up show, it’s a slight disappointment.
The show’s ghostly conceit is maintained through a series of readings from Hunter’s lockdown diary in which, alone in her Glasgow flat after moving from Dublin, she becomes convinced something in her flat is haunting her and wants to kill her.
Outwith the readings, a litany of personal tribulations are laid bare, including ones relating to both the trending comedy topic of this Fringe (ADHD) and that of the previous one (bisexuality). By the time we get to menorrhagia, polycystic ovaries and her penchant for lesbian massage porn, a pattern has become established of personal disclosures, where the laughs are inadequately hung on perceived audience, societal or familial discomfort with the topic.
This raw material is rarely shaped into anything unexpected. The gimme pun about menorrhagia is made – quite understandably – but as a payoff not a waypoint. A segment about biblical Abraham killing his son proves equally immalleable. It starts from the obvious question – why would he? – and doesn’t really advance beyond that.
That said, there’s lots to like about how the show goes about its business. The feeling of being haunted in lockdown is a very workable idea and once the stand-up/diary-reading rhythm is established it flows well. The diary readings often end on a great line that could do with being driven home and left to linger longer. It’s just a shame that a show that starts so atmospherically promising seems so focused on cataloguing the protagonist’s personal difficulties and so uncertain where real laughs can be found.