Fringe Review: Dark Horse

Emmeline Downie 14 August 2018

Sarah Keyworth isn’t really ‘performing’ for you. You’re just there, ticket in hand, forming the other half of the conversation. She stands awkwardly on stage; her brow is furrowed, and she appears pensive. Her vulnerability is palpable everywhere in the room and she is impossible to dislike.

“Who here’s gay?”, she asks. She doesn’t need to say it’s a safe space. We know that. We’re all immediately Team Sarah and we would trust her with our life support machine. With the audience firmly on her side, Keyworth launches into a frank and funny account of the way in which she discovered her sexuality. But more impressively and poignantly still, she discusses how her sexuality has intersected with the way she perceives her own gender. She recalls how she forced herself to be feminine and straight at university and, at one point, hilariously relays her anguish when attempting to avoid spending any length of time in a room with a bare penis. If you hadn’t thought about the way you perform your gender before you enter the show, you certainly will during and after.

Keyworth then creates a narrative around the boy and girl she nannies in London. She recounts the wonderful, hilarious confidence that can only be exuded by mad young children. But, sure enough, a sadder theme arises. Keyworth deftly deals with the gender politics that become visible before her very eyes in her child caring capacity. She tells us of this 7-year-old girl, a girl who used to speak to her “like a member of the Mafia” and now is scared of being called a “slut”. It is as heart-breaking as it is funny.

Using these children as comedic case studies, Keyworth attempts to put her finger on the point in growing-up when, put simply, men start to think they’re better and women start to believe they are worse. Her approach is nuanced and intelligent without being repetitive or preachy. She is this little girl’s hero, ready to fight off the lewd men and outrageous sexism she is already encountering. And this, she concludes wittily, is why lesbians are “always dressed for combat”.  

Keyworth is, without doubt, one to watch and a must-see for those who prefer their comedy to have a great deal of heart. It is an empowering and truly touching hour of excellent stand up.