Kate Berlant: Kate, Soho Theatre, 2023
Photo: Emilio Madrid
  • Comedy, Stand-up
  • Recommended


Kate Berlant: Kate

5 out of 5 stars

Meta-comedy greatness from the US stand-up

Leonie Cooper

Time Out says

If the Cockney accent Kate Berlant attempts during her one-woman show weren’t so charmingly terrible – even she corpses during the Dick van Dyke-worthy display – you might assume she was British, purely due to how good she is at taking the piss; out of herself, out of her peers and out of the sacred ‘industry’. Even the good-natured crowd comes in for a brutal drubbing, whooping with masochistic delight when she mocks them. 

Known for her surrealist take on comedy, and – as the show wryly points out – her uncanny resemblance to Kathryn Hahn, the California-born Berlant has been a mainstay of LA’s alternative comedy scene and a screen fixture for a decade. You’ll see her stealing scenes in everything from ‘High Maintenance’ and ‘Search Party’ to ‘The Good Place’, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ and the recent ‘A League of Their Own’ remake, as well as fronting the wellness industry-taunting podcast Poog with fellow comedian Jacqueline Novak.

But finally the limelight is all hers – and hers to skewer with impunity. Part comedy, part theatre and part performance art, ‘Kate’ – which has Netflix’s golden boy Bo Burnham in the director’s chair – is perhaps less absurd than her straight-up stand-up, but no less engaging. It ruthlessly mocks the sacred art of the stage and the deep narcissism of those who choose to parade themselves in front of others for affirmation. Smug Hollywood stars need not apply. 

As meta as theatre gets, ‘Kate’ begins as we enter, with Berlant sitting outside the room scrolling on her phone and with a sign around her neck that reads ‘Ignore Me’. Inside, a black and white reel of glamour shots of her and images of acting gurus Stanislavski and Stella Adler plays to the sound of meditative massage parlour music. Via an increasingly ludicrous story that pillories our endless appetite for trauma, vulnerability and ‘deeply personal’ stories, Berlant attempts to impress a Disney+ executive who has supposedly come to watch her.

Lampooning hackneyed theatre tropes (she gazes into the distance while ruminating on the porch one minute, before some wide-eyed breaking of the fourth wall the next) while letting her knack for physical comedy shine, Berland’s face is a marvel. Like Gloria Swanson mugging for the camera in Sunset Boulevard by way of Jim Carrey, she gurns, twitches and twists her features into cartoonish displays of fleshy mayhem. There’s even time for some improvised crowd work (pity poor Ben in row three) which makes for one of the biggest reactions in a night in which the laughs – and surprises – never seem to stop. 


£23-£49. Runs 1hr 10min
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