Live Review: Sooz Kempner – Mega Drive

sooz kempner index
The Bill Murray, Angel, London, 29/09/2019.

The advertising blurb for Sooz Kempner’s latest full length show says that it’s about the computer and console games she loved as a kid, along with other aspects of her childhood, and if it had been that alone this would be a rave review as when discussing various Sonic (and Knuckles) games she’s at the top of her game, her observations are astute and very funny and she’s a dab hand at photoshop too as a version of Tomb Raider starring Frasier Crane shows.

This is a more complicated show than the above suggests however as it also tackles Kempner’s confidence issues, and how she feels that every time something goes right in her life she forgets that something will inevitably go wrong. It’s a dubious concept given that she only has a couple of examples – one where how after a tweet of her talking about her time as a Christina Aguilera impersonator went viral someone accidentally threw up on her on a train, and another where she finally got to sing on a West End stage but then fell over, but perhaps there were just others she didn’t go in to.

There’s also interjections via fake Skype calls from Mean Girl Sooz, a harsh critic who never has a good word to say about her, and Clear Sooz, a supposedly perfect version who only ever offers up kind words. The latter is slightly problematic as she supposedly only exists due to Scientology, with the concept of going clear being when a person is free of unwanted emotions or personal trauma, which Kempner mocks a little, but it’s still a shame that she doesn’t use a different idea given how many lives Scientology has ruined.

Even with this fairly complex frame work a lot of the time the material doesn’t really fit in to the show though, for instance at one point Kempner does a fairly long bit on singing hymns and various other songs when she was at school, it’s often very funny and her mockery of many of the songs is strong, but thematically it seems out of place, and the same also applies to some of the stories she tells about her parents and life in the small town of Horley in Surrey.

All of which is a shame because as mentioned in the opening paragraph Kempner is undoubtedly an impressive comedian, her segment on how Sonic looks like an Incel in Sonic 3 is superb, she has some extremely funny jokes about the first ever game she played on a BBC Micro and how obsessed she was with making the character die, her stories about gaming in general are endearing and engaging, and the photoshops she displays on the screen are laugh out loud stuff each and every time.

This was the last ever performance of Mega Drive so there’s no way it’ll change in any way, but hopefully the next show Kempner does won’t lurch all over the place in such an odd fashion. This afternoon she demonstrates time and again just how good she can be when tackling a topic she knows a hell of a lot about, and if she were to concentrate on just one instead of taking on so many different, disparate ideas it would be a much more satisfying affair.

★★★ 1/2

Alex Finch.
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