Sophie Duker makes bold choices. In her outfits, as per her, but also when it comes to her comedy and stage presence. As a Black queer woman in a – frankly – very white room, Duker begins with the pronouncement that she is an ‘openly Black’ comedian. And she knows she’s got us hooked from that first line.
Hag presents a cyclically structured script delivered with an ease on stage and simple yet effective lighting tricks. As Duker hops from one tale to the next, the lighting technician performs their magic to transport the audience to exactly the atmosphere Duker wants us in. Bright, yellow light for her stories about Ghana and the warmth she felt in the love of her badass fedora-clad grandmother, Ma. A sharp white light to bring us back into the moment and in the geographical space of the UK. And a dark room for some of the more sombre moments of the show. This theatrical flair is only emphasised with the control Duker holds over modulating her voice and through her cutting gaze as she seems to stare into the eyes of each audience member.
Duker’s also playful. She picks on a couple of (willing) audience members and brings them into her story and goes back to them at different points. She invites our participation, making us feel like we’ve got a stake in the conversation. Which is remarkable, since at first glance you would assume the audience demographic is at odds with the content of the show. But, gauging by the reactions to Duker’s tales of race and her evolving sexuality, involving a cruise ship filled with ‘700 lesbian adult women’, everyone is on board (pun intended) with the ride Duker takes us on.
You may not think you would kick off a stand-up comedy show during Fringe by shouting ‘Black’ at the comedian’s request or laughing as it ends with a knock-knock joke gone oh-so-wrong. But Hag is here to pleasantly surprise you with a good ol’ dose of heart and entertaining tangents that all come together beautifully at the end.