Contrary to what the title might lead you to believe, this isn’t a stand-up show riffing on animal cruelty, though that murky topic certainly makes an appearance. Rather, Sofie Hagen has named her third outing at the Fringe after the alleged experiment of 1869 in which Friedrich Goltz asserted that a frog would leap immediately from a boiling pot of water, but would allow itself to be cooked alive if the water were heated by degrees.
Using the experiment as a metaphor for the abusive and domineering role played in her family by her Mum-Dad (Danish for maternal grandfather), Hagen revisits a subject which is clearly both painful and purgative to her. Once a figure who demanded complete subjugation and subservience, her Mum-Dad has now become a character ripe for comedy; in exposing his shittiness to the audience and convincing them to take her part, Hagen receives affirmation; validation; even acceptance. And there’s not a single moment we’re not on her side.
From the thoughtful leaflets left on audience member’s chairs exculpating them of any blame if they find the subject matter too painful to her endearing nervousness and self-depreciation onstage, Hagen comes across as a thoroughly delightful person whom everyone is rooting for. On the downside, the weighty themes of the show means that it’s more cathartic confession than comedy. Not that there aren’t plenty of moments to garner laughs at her Mum-Dad’s expense, but Hagen’s delivery seems a little rushed and over-anxious at times to fully wring the funniness from the situation.
Whether it’s the nervous laughter which punctuates her delivery or her frequent deviations into preoccupation about her body image, Hagen often appears to be overly worried about what the audience thinks of her. She shouldn’t; there’s surely not a soul in Bedlam Theatre who isn’t utterly charmed – if she could recognise that and inject more confidence into her delivery, there is definitely potential for more laughs to accompany the pathos. As is, it’s still enjoyable enough – but it could be a whole lot more. Let’s hope show number four banishes those demons for good.