Note: This review is from the 2023 Fringe

Absurdist comedians like Ruth Hunter thrive off demonstrating how weird life is, can be, and maybe should be. The Banshee Labyrinth is the perfect venue for a show that feeds off of creepy, and a willing audience helps Hunter’s show to stand out amidst the Fringe’s ever-clustered comedy scene. The Ruth is on Fire is a surreal, creative comedy experience.

A bisexual Irish comic who, in her own words, is addicted to fresh starts, Hunter now lives in Glasgow and helps to run the Fever Dream Comedy Society, using the Fringe as an arena to stretch her legs. Comments on sexuality, privilege and class are the thread holding together a peculiar fabric consisting of mites in your eyes, funny chins, and Hunter’s embittered male comedy rival. It is a show belonging on the festival circuit, more at home rewarding bold, intimate crowds than it is attempting to wow the masses. It speaks volumes to Hunter’s ability to evoke an atmosphere with little else than a glance to the crowd and a spot-on delivery.

A PowerPoint slide on the back wall, with Hunter flicking through the motions as she delivers her set, gives the show an improvised edge as well as producing some of the biggest laughs. This is a show experienced as much by seeing and opening up your mind to strange times as it is by listening intently. The jokes can be destabilising, finding gags where there appears to be only oddities. And while stifled chuckles rather than waves of laughter may be the order of the day, the creativity of the writing always shines through.

Hunter manages to turn the eccentric into a targeted, colourful show that feels like a full reveal of her personality. Seeming genuinely thrilled to be joined by the crowd, it is not a typical stand up set and some people may leave feeling more bemused than entertained. Indeed not every line lands killer blows quite like you might hope, but Hunter is full of charm and can deliver the goods on demand. Just don’t blame her if the aftertaste is a bit phantasmagorical.