Shappi Khorsandi’s latest show is a consistently hilarious yet insightful comparison between Khorsandi’s life experiences with those of Emma, Lady Hamilton, the mistress of Lord Nelson, in whose life she has had a long-standing interest. Khorsandi mentions early on in the show that she chose to base her latest Fringe show around this subject as a result of feeling pigeonholed as an ethnic minority comedian, leading to a funny but true routine on the absurdity of labels and acronyms for non-whites in Britain (or should that be people of colour, ethnic minorities, BAME… etc). As a result, the remainder of the show contains little emphasis on Khorsandi’s background compared with her previous shows.
Khorsandi does a mostly skillful job of jumping back and forth between the life of Emma, who became a prostitute at a young age to support herself and upon the death of Nelson, became eventually abandoned by a resentful British public; and her own life experiences. Whilst some of these parallels contrast wildly and are used as an opportunity for Khorsandi to go on entertaining tangents about relationships, there are some revealing similarities showing that some things may not have changed so much for women. Khorsandi’s account of her estranged partner demanding via email that she abort their baby is more or less the same as her account of Emma being told via letter to get rid of her child. Likewise, Emma was married to a Lord at a young age, so were Khorsandi’s great-grandmother and grandmother in Iran.
Khorsandi’s enthusiasm for the life of Emma is clear and she uses her show to emphasise the hardships Emma went through as a woman in Georgian Britain and how she was ultimately abandoned by the public following Nelson’s death at Trafalgar. She concludes the show by reading Nelson’s last request for Emma to be looked after by the people of Britain as an appeal for the audience to remember her.
However, Khorsandi occasionally gets sidetracked by some of her tangents, making her transitions back to Emma’s life feel a little jarring and causing the show to slightly overrun. Her veering off into these tangents also means that she has to rush through Emma’s final days leaving the conclusion of her show feeling more muted than it had the potential to be.
With Mistress and Misfit, Khorsandi provides an informative and entertaining show about an often overlooked figure in British history. Worth seeing even if you have little interest in history.