Culture critic Emily Barker reviews comedian Katherine Ryan’s ‘Glitter Room’ tour at the Symphony Hall, an evening ‘of feisty frivolity’.
Katherine Ryan, best known for her caustic comedy style on panel shows such as Mock the Week and 8 Out of 10 Cats, can sometimes come across as crass and controversial for the sake of having a signature style, but her 2017 Netflix show, In Trouble, is a brilliant and entertaining find. Her full-length stand-up routine quickly demonstrated that her comedic ability extends far beyond the constraints of the usually male-centric panel shows, a topic of conversation that she addresses more than a couple of times in her new tour, Glitter Room.
Birmingham local Joe Lycett fittingly opened Ryan’s Symphony Hall show, and most of the audience would probably agree that we would have happily watched double the length of his 20-minute set, especially as the first five were spent in the auditorium, helping a couple of latecomers find their seats (and then chastising them when it turned out they were in entirely the wrong section). It was an entertaining bit of spontaneity that showed how funny Lycett is without aid of a script, and, once he had leapfrogged back onto the stage, flowed seamlessly into his routine. There was plenty of fond Black Country teasing and spot-on Dudley accents, and plenty of self-deprecation about his supposed wavering masculinity. All in all, exactly the sort and high standard of set you can expect from Joe Lycett, and a great contrast to Katherine’s style.
Katherine Ryan took to the stage in head-to-toe pink and what she called her ‘vagina trousers – I’m sorry, I know you can’t un-see it now’. Props firstly have to be given for the 8-inch heels she sashayed around the stage in for the full hour, matching the sassy attitude of her stand-up. It is virtually impossible to be a female on the comedy circuit without the inequality in the industry working its way into your set, and much of her material did revolve around these double standards. It became abundantly clear throughout the night that Ryan, in spite of these challenges, is absolutely nailing both comedy and life.
She addressed the difficulties of being a single, immigrant mother, being a woman with the audacity to have a career while raising a child and, above all, being happy with these states of play, not feeling any need to conform and find that ‘perfect’ relationship that would ‘complete’ her life. ‘I’m just bad at them [relationships].’ She quipped, ‘If I were this bad at being a surgeon, had the highest kill-rate in the country, my friends wouldn’t be like guuurlll, when you gon’ get back in theatre? I know a guy!’ Another first-class moment was Ryan picturing how her life would be portrayed and perceived if she were a man, how, at 34, she would be described as a ‘young, young, young, young, baby-boy of a man’, and how much more impressive her already sizeable achievements would likely be considered: ‘How does he do it? How? Is anyone sucking his dick right now?!’
The night lived up to expectations, and left me in no doubt that Ryan is at her best when on her solo tour. Moments of improvisation and audience participation make it clear that Ryan isn’t reliant on a script or a panel of other comedians to be funny – Ryan suited having the stage all to herself, dominating the space, and provided an evening of feisty frivolity, grounded within her inspiring display of female empowerment.
More information on the Glitter Room tour can be found here.