Aisling Bea is getting soaked; so are the rest of us. Her 4 July open-air gig was meant to be a summer celebration of comedy returning post-Covid – but it takes lashings of blitz spirit just to stay till the end. “If I wasn’t contractually obliged to be here …”, says guest star Nish Kumar, who tries to brave the downpour but is soon cowering under a brolly, several of which Bea doles out to the soggiest members of the crowd.
It’s the quality of these two comics that makes the experience worthwhile. Live comedy having been strictly rationed, it’s a treat to see them on stage – if only through the Niagara cascading from my eyebrows on to my sodden lap. Performing on the austere set of the Regent’s Park Romeo and Juliet (lots of jokes there), Bea reprises many of the gags that distinguished her 2020 Greenwich festival set. Which is fair enough: she’s seldom gigged since. And they’re crackers, like the routine about religious Irish education’s fear of queer, or her idea for a depression-themed TV gameshow.
Her set comes at you in an array of dopey voices – many of them the voices in her head – and with a lambent sense of her own ridiculousness, over all of which Bea exerts supreme control. There’s a zinging set-piece about a recent One Show appearance, and an unlikely subtext to the interview she gave about mental health. Kumar transcends the weather, pure, with a drunken (lui dice) tirade against the government’s mishandling of Covid. A volte, it’s as much ranting abuse as wit – at which points, the fury itself is the joke. His follow-up routine, about the ages at which we should forgo various social media, has less bite.
Between the pair, Fatiha El-Ghorri sabotages her own set by fretting about how badly it’s being received. But there are some droll gags here, all of them about her Hackney Muslim identity. The best is her opening salvo: “It’s so nice to see so many hijabis!” From under the cowl of a dripping pac-a-mac or poncho, you’ve got to laugh.