Review: Sarah Keyworth: Dark Horse

4*
Soho Upstairs, London
Mon 28 Jan – Sat 2 Feb 2019

Growing up, Nottingham-born new comedy face Sarah Keyworth didn’t live up to society’s expectations about what a girl should be. Bullied for her ‘masculine’ attributes, she went off to university determined to be the Perfect Straight Woman with long hair and a ‘Straight Girl Laugh’—and was then called out for her perceived promiscuity.

Keyworth takes us on a hilarious journey through her childhood and adolescence as a young lesbian in the context of our bizarrely gendered world and its strict rules for boys and girls. But this stand-up routine goes on to tell the story of another little girl.

Out of university and out of the closet, Keyworth finds herself working as a nanny to two delightfully posh children with ‘dogs’ names’. Roly and Baxter are so posh, in fact, that they don’t play ‘Cops & Robbers’ but ‘Metropolitian Police and Ruffians’.

Keyworth initially doubts she’ll have much to offer the girly, pony-loving Roly. But to her amazement, a beautiful bond develops with this child, and before long, Keyworth discovers a fierce maternal protectiveness in herself. When little Roly tells her ‘fanny’ (a nanny who is also a friend) that she is afraid of looking like a ‘slut’ at just seven years old, Keyworth realises she will fight to the death to protect this little girl from the forces of sexism.

When she’s not got you giggling with gags about babies in dresses looking like shuttlecocks, she’s delivering truths that leave the audience so silent you could hear a pin drop. With her deadpan, assured delivery, Keyworth is simultaneously tough-as-old-boots and vulnerable—an engaging presence that holds the audience enraptured.

It’s quite extraordinary how Keyworth manages to combine perfectly-delivered jokes, intelligent commentary on sexism and personal anecdotes into a one-hour show without dropping the ball (or, should I say, shuttlecock). She never wanders into preachiness or sentimentality, but delivers an intelligent, sincere, heartwarming piece of stand-up that packs a punch.

I’m far from the first person to say it, particularly after a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. But this woman is certainly one to watch. Especially if you want to know why lesbians are always dressed for combat.

© J. McClellan 2018

This production is running at The Soho Theatre until the 2nd Feb. Book Now.

screen shot 2019-01-24 at 08.39.08

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