“And in a change to the scheduled programme…”
Will Franken had already caused one of the talking points of the comedy programme at this year’s Fringe by coming out as transgender weeks before the start, way after brochures had gone to print with him billed as “Will”. Now performing as Sarah Franken, it’s a shame, but an obvious necessity, that she has to waste time at the beginning explaining the scenario, because it just delays some excellent character comedy.
Islamic terrorists are a repeated theme for Franken. She segues neatly from an explanation of her transgender status to an Isis hideout, where two fighters are discussing “challenging” Fringe shows only to be interrupted by an overbearing sports coach urging them to get out there and destroy the West. We get a Scottish news anchor interviewing Anjem Choudary about rape and genital mutilation, and most brilliantly of all, an Isis air stewardess preparing for a suicide bombing while explaining safety procedure.
Being transgender allows Franken a lot of comedic freedom. She’s possibly the only Fringe comic who can “go there” parodying a conference for feminists without getting called on it. There’s also a lot of gender-related stuff, which is better for ostensibly coming from the heart, rather than purely for shock and provocation value. She also has a range of uptight, middle Englanders at her disposal, almost Alan Bennett-like in their characterisation. They’re brilliantly acted.
The sudden transgender angle could be a distraction, could be a turn-off or could be a selling point, and given that this is more sparsely-attended than it ought to be, it’s a worry that for some maybe it’s the second. Regardless, it’s damn good comedy.