Three Broomsticks is a new, and perhaps hastily added, addition to the PBH roster of venues. Its first floor rooms have the feel of a student flat mid-redecoration, and Stella Graham has one of these crammed out with 16 or so people as she draws the black sheet across the window to block out the streetlight.
Its not the most salubrious of venues for a performer who’s clearly capable of playing grander settings. She has a good few of this audience heartily rolling around at her glossy, well-delivered observational comedy, and could do the same for a bigger room.
There’s a but, though…
Some of it’s very middle of the road. Literally so, in the case of her rants about middle-lane hoggers. Another poke she has at the soft belly of the British psyche is for the way middle-class people apologise for everything. Yes, she does her partner’s posh “sorry” very well, but it all feels quite familiar and safe.
She also seems to misjudge the assumptions an audience is making about her. A couple of self-deprecating jokes refer to her heritage, a heritage she doesn’t immediately explain. Eventually, we learn she’s half Sri Lankan, but until we’re alerted to that, some of her comments leave us scratching our head. At another point, she talks about her anger, as if we’ve all picked up what an angry person she is. Moderate disgruntlement is all that’s really come across.
But the way she performs is strong. She’s good at using different voices and has the facial expressions and physicality to go with them. In a section about her own attitudes to motherhood and fertility, she characterises Mother Nature as a wise-talking woman from Harlem, which works well.
Curiously, this leads us into the least safe material of the evening – a well-told story about having a coil fitted that splits the room. One lady finds the pain personally relatable and is creased over. Ditto two middle-aged ladies in the front row. But a couple at the back take it as their cue to leave. Egged on by the reactions of the warmer half of the crowd, she doesn’t let it phase her, but it’s presumably always going to be a bit TMI for some.
However, the biological clock and the dilemmas it brings prove to be very fertile (pardon the pun). She gets good mileage out of it, and coupled with the polished performance, there’s little need of a bucket speech with this crowd. There are more adventurous and distinctive shows out there though..r