As part of Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2019
Entering to Roll with It by Oasis and rapturous applause from the sold-out and rather tipsy crowd, Susie McCabe quite literally takes control of the crowd by enquiring if two seats in front of her are free. With seating sorted she proceeds by interacting with those who have just been plonked in front of her. To her eternal credit, there is nothing interrogative or sneering about this. Instead, it’s like a gentle ribbing mixed with back-handed praise. “Don’t boo the lassie… she’s no a merchant banker!” she intones with that simple mix of warning and defence.
With her simultaneously warm yet goes-without-saying no-nonsense working-class Glaswegian persona (“I was brought up in the east end – we cannae join the police”), the choice of a mid-1990s Oasis song is perfect for McCabe’s latest show. Throughout a long set which encompasses two halves, she uses her own life and stories to examine how expectations on individuals in our society have changed over time. McCabe’s extremely engaging conversational style makes it clear that young Susie would have indeed been listening to Oasis; no way would she by a Blur girl.
This idea of two opposing tribes is expanded further when she takes the tried and tested approach of establishing Millennials and pre-Millennials to discuss the expectations of both groups and how these are shaped for them by society at large. This ensures the proceedings are extremely weighted with nostalgia and is a sure-fire way to ensure that everyone can relate to her material on some level. Comically exaggerated (“Naw, naw; you need to be twelve for the heroin”) and wrapped up with a smattering of topical references her set skilfully integrates layer upon layer to incorporate travel, religion, sexuality, class and leisure in a way which never feels clunky, overwhelming or dull. The frequent callbacks throughout from everything to comfort buying of M&S sheets to St. Anthony helping you find lost items really help with this, acting as little hooks here and there for navigation.
However, McCabe doesn’t take the more obvious route of concluding that one set of those she is examining are somehow inferior to the others. In a rather rousing finale, she concludes that Millennials are far more worldly whilst her generation was more streetwise. Is one better than the other? She never posits that as a point for serious consideration; that would be too intolerant for someone who truly seems to want us to all to realise the strength that there is in unity and understanding. “Susie’s a performer,” her mum acceptingly said about her. It’s impossible to agree otherwise.
Whilst her style is perfect, the material can at times feel slightly repetitive. This is not helped by the length of the set, and even McCabe herself says she should start earlier on a Saturday night in Glasgow. If this had perhaps been edited down to an hour slot, as opposed to two halves of forty minutes each, then the content would have matched the truly excellent style. There is a slight feeling of padding things out, with the “expectations” arc almost being an injected afterthought into the first act. It’s a testament to McCabe that this is the only major reservation that is apparent about her show.
McCabe ends by thanking the audience and there are no doubts this is a genuine thank you as she succinctly outlines how the support she’s had over time has ensured she can grow and develop and will now be playing bigger venues going forward as a full-blown professional comedian. She may be moving up but she still knows how to give it that personal touch, saying goodbye to everyone on the door. And, after her performance tonight, it’s impossible to imagine it any other way.