We’ve followed Susan Riddell‘s career with great interest for a good few years now, since we saw her be reliably the funniest person on any mixed bill in the Central Belt around 2017 onwards. Since her debut hour in 2019 we’ve expected her to ‘saunter into brilliance‘ sooner rather than later, and ‘Wonder Woman’ is her biggest step on that journey yet.
For a show entitled ‘Wonder Woman’, Riddell isn’t promising any astonishing feats. She’s just a normal woman and this show is about the things – big issues and trifling irritations – that she wonders about. This hour is simply her getting her preoccupations out in the open, in the probably vain hope they’ll stop taking up so much head space. Relationships, her ‘hackit’ feet, nuclear war, and a victim-blaming warning sign near a golf course; no matter the scale of the concern, each is treated with the same wide-eyed bafflement of a toddler in a sweet shop, and each receives the same affably earthy commentary.
Claiming she doesn’t know how to either start or end a show, nor how to segue between segments, she embroiders her material with a series of excellent, well-made sketches which prove a superb way of establishing a series of running gags and callbacks that is indicative of a much more sophisticated comedic brain than she would likely claim. They may not be integrated seamlessly into her repertoire as yet – she prefers to retreat to the wings while they’re on, finding remaining on stage during previews to be excruciatingly awkward – but they do bolster the narrative structure, even if they occasionally interrupt the flow.
You could say that Susan almost has an anti-image. Her material is solidly observational, but her style so instinctively conversational that it barely feels rehearsed. A notepad she keeps to one side might infer a lack of preparation, but it’s purely an anxious crutch. ‘Do you really trust a waiter that doesn’t write down your order?’ she asks, reasonably. But it could be convincingly argued that someone with such easy charm doesn’t need anything other than a mic and a clutch of great jokes.
Even among the embarrassment of riches in the Scottish comedy scene (we’re a little sore at zero home-based nominations for the Comedy Awards) Riddell is one of the most naturally gifted talents around and ‘Wonder Woman’ is the Glaswegian’s clearest claim to excellence yet. She may have to stop pointing out her perceived weaknesses at every chance she gets however, it’s looking increasingly like false modesty.
‘Wonder Woman’ runs until Sun 27 Aug 2023 at Gilded Balloon Teviot – Turret at 19:00