COMEDY NIGHT: Why you need to see... Olga Koch
Who: Olga Koch
Where: Frog and Bucket Comedy Club
Comedy is full of middle-aged middle-class fully-white straight men talking about their various mid-life crises. And that's fine, to an extent. Some of them are really fucking funny, whilst others are less so. But it can all start to feel a little same-y. There's only so much original material you can mine from realising you're too old for Topman, or noticing that you have grey pubes.
Luckily Olga Koch is different. If you're looking for a unique voice with a singularly gripping story to tell, the UK-based Russian-American has a tale and a half. There is literally no one on this planet who could relay the same extraordinary series of deeply personal and geo-politically significant events as she does. It certainly beats Barry from Chigwell going on about erectile dysfunction.
Not that Koch is above the odd dick joke. With a name like hers it would be rude not to. But that's on the periphery of a story that spans cultures, borders, generations, economic systems and even realities. So startling are the contents of Koch's show that she has the good sense and admirable chutzpah to play them down rather than up - essentially throwing away some sensational revelations to great effect.
In lesser hands, the part espionage thriller and part (national) coming-of-age tale would be an overwhelming endeavour covering far too much ground. Thankfully Koch finds a great balance between the micro and macro, focusing primarily on the human story before expanding on the greater context. A clever use of flashbacks and multimedia make the intricate mosaic extremely palatable.
Perhaps it is due to her fascinating backstory, or maybe she's just old beyond her years, but it's hard to believe that this is a debut hour. Koch's style is polished and snappy; it's unclear how long she spent in New York but a certain east coast panache seems to have rubbed off. Even when things go wrong or hit a technical snag, she has the wit and crowd-craft to roll with it and use it to her advantage.
'Fight' is a fantastic show that you somehow want preserving for posterity, be it as a live-recording or even a dramatisation of some sort. As for Koch, she shows enough variety away from the main spy caper to hint at a bright future beyond such fertile source material. That said, she is very much a product of her background and experiences, and therefore a perfect reminder that comedy is greatly enriched by new voices.