She ain’t no Fringe rookie no more. Bringing her new show, Hag, The Fringe’s previous best newcomer and Taskmaster champion has lost no steam, even when admitting the differences in returning to the festival in a post-covid environment. This triumphant embracement of chaos is a journey through Duker’s past and present, with a sprinkling of the future. On a journey of mysticism, sex, race, ageing, more sex, and queerness, Hag attempts to unpack a lot –sacrificing coherency for laughter.
There’s a sandwich here – a filthy one. And we’re not even at the threesome chat yet. On the outside, jokes surrounding zodiacs, healing crystals and ‘hetero sex’ versus lesbian cruises all conceal a profoundly personal, almost therapeutic filling of Duker’s life with her Grandmother – the titular Hag. One hell of a baddie, this maternal legend was a woman of presence, influence, and respect, and seems a lot to live up to, but she does make ageing a more pleasant process.
The audience is without question here for the ride, as audiences are gently eased in, bridging the gap with the predominantly white, middle-class watchers. There is, unsurprisingly, a personal touch with Duker’s repertoire as they encourage back-and-forth chats to further her experiences and stories as Duker comes to terms with entering her thirties. It’s a peculiar show, but really, did you expect anything else?
Playful, nonchalant, and with a soupcon of something raucously spicy, Duker’s presence has a storytelling quality to it – pushing the stand-up closing in structure to a one-person show. Far from a complaint, it enables a tighter repour with the audience, who no longer fear the interaction, and instead fight for the attention they so desperately crave.
But for all the laughter, the gags and insight – Duker struggles to make a definitive point. It’s there, somewhere, a sincere attempt to reclaim the title of ‘Hag’, and amidst all the fizzing energy and sharp moments.
Hot. Sweaty. Sharp. Very Sweaty. The Pleasance Beside was lucky to house such a developing talent, whose comedic trickery is still evolving and finding a structure of foundation and coherency. Hag pulses with the energy of something chaotic but impressive. In time, there is little to no doubt of Duker’s exceptional ability. For now, though, her charm, fire and bubbling energy are enough to snare audiences and provide a satisfying evening.
‘Triumphant embracement of chaos’
Sophie Duker: Hag runs at the Pleasance Courtyard until August 28th.
Tickets for which may be obtained here.