The Truth about Lions: Catherine Semark

Wednesday, 17 August, 2011

Lions. Raw.

Edinburgh 11 – Medina, Lothian Street, Bread Street – 16-27 August 11 – 14:35 (50mins)

Catherine Semark’s new show is all about lions, or more to the point it is all about a programme she saw once on BBC 1 called the Truth About Lions. The programme didn’t live up to what she was expecting and she was left disappointed. In fact, Catherine Semark’s new show is all about expectations, or more to the point the expectations her mind grabs in a headlock that occasionally leave her disappointed when faced with reality.  She is  equally fascinated and amused by the real world as she is by the inner workings of her own brain; it is this that can make her so enthralling to watch. Her approach is that of masterful story-telling which consistently refers back to her central theme of expectations, which is no mean feat particularly for a comedian who is obviously adept at expressing herself whilst on a tangent. Her performance had a solid structure that still maintained its fanciful edge as she side-tracked with ease, before snapping back to the main point to deliver the punch line. Her show on expectations toyed with the unexpected (this became apparent once the subject matter drove quickly away from ‘the truth about lions’.)

Her evident joy and fascination with silliness and the bizarre happenings of everyday life were endearing and riveting due to her enticing manner of story-telling. Catherine Semark is well-paced and in complete control of her material.  She lays out a story eloquently in front of her audience lacing her narrative with colourful description. At times her stories will give way to a meandering side-thought; one moment she plays out how she found shards of watermelon in Epping Forest lying next to a porn magazine. The ideas it stirs in her spill forth as she launches into the imagined phone call between the three friends that could have possibly left it there, although it seems unlikely. Catherine Semark evidently loves words and description and throws her tongue around ideas with relish and flair.

Although not a riotous, laugh-a-minute approach to stand-up, her comic timing is gentle whilst allowing the punch line to seep through her narrative, more often than not punctuating it with a squinting glance of excruciation at the patronising AA man or open-mouthed horror at the cashier in the bookshop who greets her with “Good Morrow!” There is a thoughtful, expert touch to her delivery. She is obviously a comedian who finds humour in the small details of life; she once witnessed Patrick Stewart in the lobby of a service station eating  a Cornetto. For Catherine Semark the Cornetto played the most important role in this scenario; it is these little moments that she revels in, and as she describes it her audience is encouraged to revel too, through the scenes she cunningly depicts with an extensive vocabulary and flair for down-played comic timing.

Catherine Semark put on a warm and natural performance, even if a joke would not necessarily receive the reaction she was expecting, the material did not collapse. It did not require huge laughs, rather an attentive audience for enthralling tales of experience.  It is a privilege at times, especially when watching stand-up to experience a performer who is truly enjoying their own material, not to mention relaxing to see someone so at ease with their work.  As she reads out the opening lines of the Pagan Police Association’s website, it is her enthusiasm and obvious joy at finding and sharing such a treasure which is a delight to experience. Catherine Semark delivered a warm, articulate and enthralling performance with some truly memorable moments.

(c) Alexandra Kavanagh 2011


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