Rachel Fairburn: Showgirl is a fun piece of theatre which ticks all the stand-up comedy boxes, but the show’s impact is limited by cohesion and commitment issues. 

Showgirl is written and performed by Rachel Fairburn, with Tom Lawrinson as the supporting act. Fairburn has six critically acclaimed solo shows and is a regular on the UK stand-up circuit. She is also the co-host and co-writer of the popular podcast All Killa No Filla. Premiering in Fairburn’s hometown of Manchester, Showgirl will tour more than 30 towns and cities from the 9th of September until the 26th of November. 

Showgirl covers topics such as post-covid socialisation, mental health, working-class vs. middle-class, sexism, bullying, bad manners, true crime, and air-fryers. The routines are brilliant but detached from the central idea of being a showgirl, which weakens their collective impact. 

The supporting act and main act do not blend well. Acknowledging that the artists have different comedic styles (there is something for everyone in this show), they are not on the same page. Lawrinson does not support the themes of Showgirl. Lawrinson and Fairburn overlap on two topics: gender equality and paedophilia. Their gender equality sections work well together; Lawrinson’s ironic male perspective on sexism counters (and supports) Fairburn’s frustration at her lived experience. Other than this, Lawrinson could be a supporting act in any show, as there is nothing specific to Showgirl in his routine. Of course, there is no strict rule that the supporting act must thematically support the main act, but if he chose to do so, this would strengthen the show and allow Fairburn’s lines to land with more resonance. 

Now, to focus on Fairburn’s performance. Fairburn’s pacing is perfect, and she handles heavy topics with light wit. The two sections that dazzle are the working-class vs. middle-class section, and the true crime section. The central question of Showgirl is: “How did Rachel Fairburn get into comedy?” or “What makes Rachel Fairburn a Showgirl?” But there is a lack of commitment to the answer. Fairburn starts strong–the intention is there– and she changes from a dressing gown into a sparkly tasselled bodysuit. As she works through the topics, Fairburn doesn’t really look for the answer to this question and she eventually admits that the answer eludes her: “I don’t know”. Therefore, the show isn’t about being a Showgirl, performance, or performative behaviour, despite the title. The show has a strong ending, but the preceding sections struggle to work towards the central idea of being a showgirl because the show isn’t really about that idea. If I had to hazard a guess, this is a show about the frustration of repetition and of answering the same questions constantly. For example, there is a brilliant section about air fryers. Fairburn doesn’t care about air fryers, but she is frustrated by people talking about them constantly. Overall, these shortcomings don’t detract from the Showgirl‘s enjoyability. Even if the thematic commitment isn’t quite there, the showgirl theme is fun, sexy, and sassy. Most importantly, the material is good. 

Showgirl is a brilliant, lively, and engaging night at the theatre. The audience shook with laughter, and Fairburn’s playful musings on modern topics are relatable and therapeutic. If you’re still riding the Barbie high and want to treat yourself to a fun night out, I recommend Showgirl wholeheartedly. Even if you usually avoid stand-up comedy, make an exception for this show. The lists of venues and dates are available on Rachel Fairburn’s website. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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