FRINGE 2019: Why you need to see… Rachel Fairburn
Who: Rachel Fairburn
What: The People's Princess
"I’m a total anomaly at this festival - it’s like seeing a tiger on the bus..."
Rachel Fairburn's show opens with a mock news report detailing an instance when - totally out of the blue - a significantly younger ex-lover spat in her face during sex. So incredulous was she at his impromptu gobbing that she chastised him with the impassioned if cryptic lament: “I remember Princess Diana dying!” This led to a realisation that she was now the same age as the expired Royal when she met her end in 1997.
The People's Princess is ostensibly Fairburn making her pitch for that title some 22 years since it was last vacated. If anything she argues that she is far more worthy of it than the previous incumbent. But in truth this brilliantly entertaining hour is about so much more. It is an examination of class, privilege, gender dynamics and age-gaps all communicated with razor sharp wit and undeniable swagger. Gags involving Paul Burrell and Karen Matthews elicit gasps that Fairburn seems to be relish.
Perhaps Fairburn's greatest virtue is that there's no one quite like her - certainly not at the Fringe. She has a uniquely singular voice which combines an Andrea Dunbar-esque bent for caustic northernness, with an observational eye and turn of phrase that at times even the likes of Caroline Aherne or Craig Cash would be proud of. And vitally, she makes no concessions for the largely middle-class liberal Edinburgh crowd.
Indeed Fairburn takes great pleasure in playing with the audience's occasional discomfort. She assures them that she herself is working-class and so they *are* allowed to laugh, as well as relaxing their "worthy arseholes". Drawing from observational comedy that no Tarquin or Toby could ever reference or even recognise, there's a pearl of a line when she describes the working-class holy trinity as being "B&M Bargains, ears pierced by three months, and Take A Break."
Similarly, her logic as to why there's only really two types of pornography - American and British - is magnificently grotty, and there's a searing point she makes about how her sharp Manc use of the word 'c*nt' is seen as unacceptably crass, whereas when Fleabag does it, it's groundbreaking and she speaks for a generation. The irony being that TV audiences would surely lap up a Fairburn style version of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's show.
If last year's gut-punching The Wolf at the Door was a defiant Fairburn coming to terms with a particularly difficult period in her life, The People's Princess is a comedian at the peak of her powers, brimming with confidence and visibly loving being on stage. At times Fairburn is so relaxed that her performance can seem almost chatty in its conversational tone. But this is top notch writing delivered with unabashed working-class bravado.
You can buy tickets for The People's Princess here.