Titania McGrath, the “radical intersectionalist poet and Twitter activist” created by Andrew Doyle and played by actor Alice Marshall, is back with a new “mxnifesto”. The show, originally staged in 2019, has been rewritten to include developments from the intervening years, during which Doyle has become a regular on GB News. The show takes aim at predictable targets: Greta Thunberg, trans athletes, Meghan Markle and Nish Kumar.
Tonight, we’re part of an educational seminar. “If you’re unsure which opinions to have, this is the workshop for you,” McGrath tells us.
Doyle says he created the character as a way to challenge the erosion of free speech and the degradation of political debate. There are deep wells of potential material – the censorious Twitter culture found on both left and right, the tendencies to wilfully misread social media posts and double-down rather than admit mistakes. McGrath only skims the surface. Doyle himself performing standup as the support act engages with his chosen topics more successfully and provides bigger laughs.
Barely a minute into McGrath’s section, the show attempts to provoke with a “joke” using outdated ableist terms. Is the punchline McGrath’s faux pas or are we supposed to find the idea that you’d avoid these phrases amusing? What are we laughing at? It’s a question raised again when a photograph of a trans athlete is presented as a punchline, and when we’re invited to mock McGrath’s defence of Shamima Begum.
It’s not always clear whom the character is parodying – does a wealthy slam poet dressed in Zara-style office-wear conjure the grains of truth that make great satire? The recurring joke is that she’s a hypocrite (a supporting character even spells this out in case we missed the message), but it quickly feels repetitive.
Some jokes – on remainers patronising working-class people and the tweeness of anti-Trump protests – do land. But many do exactly what the show accuses online activists of, reducing complex topics to nuance-free quips. There’s a surprising number of Hitler jokes too, Godwin’s law IRL. In these ways, it does bring Twitter to the West End.
I hesitate to give this one star. A show that skewers the terminally offended will no doubt wear it as a recommendation. And yet, here we are. Don’t mistake this for courting controversy, it simply isn’t very funny.