Sketch comedy, by its very nature, supposes a variance in quality of material, which is why it often does not work on stage – and why live solo sketch comedy is a very rare choice of format; however, it is evidently the correct choice for Catriona Knox. Hellcat showcases both her abilities as a writer and her dexterity as a performer. In the course of an hour she delivers a Nico impression, an extended conversation in a made up language, and an unexpectedly casual apocalypse, amongst other sketches.
There’s some incredibly strong moments in her show. Her Norma Bates-esque re-characterisation of Judy Murray managed to be both topical (I saw the show just several hours after Andy won the Gold) and utterly hilarious. And while it’s impossible for a Nico impression to be considered topical, it was certainly entertaining enough to go along with. Her script was tight to begin with though lost it’s way a little towards the end, but throughout she delivered it with consistency and flair.
The show as a whole however lacks impact. During one sketch, she actually pulled me up on stage, pretended that I was an ugly hairy woman, and forced me to put lipstick on. This, I remember thinking, surely must change my parameters as a reviewer. It certainly made me think about her use of the audience in a different way. Adam Riches won the main comedy award last year for the ingenious manner in which he used his audience as meat puppets; Doctor Brown’s latest Fringe offering does something similar, but arguably goes further by placing the onus of the show onto a single person plucked from the crowd.
By comparison, Knox did far less with me. The audience must have gotten a chuckle out of my attempts to put on lipstick, which were, admittedly, a little embarrassing; however, just as I was preparing myself for the fact that things might get far, far worse, I was told to sit down. Without wishing to sound masochistic, I was rather looking forward to her pushing me a bit further. Perhaps if Knox had prepared some more material with the expectation that a male audience member would be more reluctant to feminise himself we would have been on to something. Even though I would still be interested to hear what she made of my performance, I felt that by the end of my turn on stage I had added very little to the show other than the fleeting presence of a chubby, tarted-up man—good for a few seconds of laughter.
Although the show is a strong one overall, by the end it seems clear that Knox has not entirely decided where her focus should be. She seems to be trying to establish herself as something of a chameleon. And she certainly does display many talents. All she needs to do is embolden her approach and ambition a little more, and she really will be a force to be reckoned with.