Tessa Coates: Witch Hunt Review – 3.5/5*
Returning to Edinburgh Fringe after a sell-out debut show, Tessa Coates presents ‘Witch Hunt’ at Pleasance This.
Tessa arrives on stage with a kind of comfortable nervousness. She has a jittery energy about her, one that makes her comedy quick and sometimes deliberately awkward. She’s quick to promise no audience participation, and then accidentally asks an audience member a question about Neil Young. She once went to the Hammersmith Apollo to see the cast of her favourite podcast My Favourite Murder. She likes to look at the moon.
Witch Hunt is comedy with a point, structured – interestingly enough – around Tessa’s very useless degree in anthropology. It uses anthropological theories and study to examine whether humans are genetically programmed to act a certain way, conditioned by fear and a desire to fit in with the herd. She uses her own smart humour, some of what I imagine are the funnier anthropological theories, some very dubious statistics and the famous Koko the Gorilla (RIP) to make her point.
Using this anthropological lens, Tessa talks about gender without being overbearing. Yes, women are competitive – they’re socially engineered to be, when they’ve learnt their whole lives (we’re talking Famous Five, Toy Story, Lord of the Rings…) that men go on adventures and only the token female (probably a tomboy) might make the cut. Some of her funniest material is thoughts on Disney movies, remarking women of a certain generation had a choice of learning femininity from the doe-eyed Disney heroine with only eleven lines in her namesake film or the ruthless female villain at the top of her criminal profession. It’s all a bit of fun – and it’s all hilariously on point.
It’s probably not for everyone. Young middle class women, probably the kind one might find drinking white wine at a My Favourite Murder meet up event, will love it. Biologists might prefer to steer clear.
There’s something effortlessly hilarious about Tessa. Her comedy puts its audience at ease. It never feels targeted, but it does have make real and valid observations. Tessa’s natural charisma and chattiness, combined with her knowledge of dodgy theories, love of Disney films and ability to relay many a funny anecdote makes Witch Hunt a worthwhile hour of one’s time.
Tessa finally makes her point – that she can be who she wants to be – in one hell of a climax that includes music and affirmations. Witch Hunt is a story, a well-told and frankly very amusing story, which returns to its beginning at its end. It’s immensely satisfying, leaving its audience inspired and jolly in a way that has nothing to do with those four gin and tonics.
~ review by Susy Brett