Reviewed by Eilis Lee.
It’s late in the evening. You’ve been flyered within an inch of your life on your way to the show. It’s already ridiculously warm in the sauna-like Pleasance Beneath. But as soon as New York’s rising cabaret-comedy star Catherine Cohen steps in front of her golden, tinselled backdrop and unleashes an hour-full of vocal stylings that oscillate between a manic retired Boadway actress and sleepy NYC influencer, none of that really matters. From Cohen’s nigh-on nonsensical delivery to some hysterically physical moments—her constant foot-pops and a full-body re-enactment of taking a reference photo for her gynaecologist are especially great—everything about The Twist… is gloriously funny.
Cohen, host of a weekly show at Alan Cummings’ legendary cabaret bar Club Cumming and her podcast Seek Treatment, is an Edinburgh first-timer, though you wouldn’t know it. Thanks to rave reviews, Cohen is this year’s debut darling; her shows have been packed and uproarious, with even Game of Thrones’s Emilia Clarke spotted in the crowd just a week ago. This show is no different. The audience, aside from one exhausted punter who dozes off half-way through and is promptly, hilariously awakened by Cohen, is buzzing and lively throughout. From musings on life, sex and self-image to dramatic recitals of Instagram poetry and so much more, the set delivers on the hype: her satire is guffaw-worthy, slightly bizarre and distinctly relatable. Cohen’s unravelling of the interior lives of young, modern women is so blade-sharp because alongside people who view fruit as dessert and psychopathic joggers, she is her own target. Not only is she unafraid to follow diversions from her core material and provocatively interact with her crowd throughout, but Cohen fearlessly takes aim at everything about herself, both in her spoken interludes and mid-song.
Those songs, focal points of the set co-written with her brilliant musical collaborator Henry Koperski, are gold. Musical comedy that doesn’t make every atom of my being want to implode on itself is honestly a miracle, but Cohen’s voice and lyrical wit are fresh and genuinely entertaining. Opening with what she coins as her origin story—"boys never wanted to kiss me, so now I do comedy”—her songs range from a desperate plea for Urban Outfitters to make clothes that actually fit real human women to a ditty about murder that balances on the edge of being absolutely bonkers. An obvious reference point for many could be Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but the saccharine yet darkly acidic edge to Cohen’s comedy sets her in a musical space of her own.
The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous is, bluntly, great. If you want a break from the same old stand-up, go. Even if you don’t, still go. To echo Cohen herself, the Twist… is brave. I’m obsessed. J’adore.
Catherine Cohen: The Twist… ? She’s Gorgeous runs at 22:45 at Pleasance Beneath until 25th August.