Ania Magliano’s debut stand up hour is a delight to watch. Charming, droll, and perceptive in equal measure, she navigates the perennial quest to be the ‘mysterious girl’; the girl that boybands sing about, the cool girl at the bar, the voiceless muse of poetry.
Despite her sarcastic deprecation of familiar material as a ‘hot take’, Magliano does shed some new light, noting how boyband music is the teenage, musical equivalent of catcalling. Aided by powerpoint presentation, we are offered an alarmingly relevant analysis of lyrics from the likes of One Direction and The Kooks. Magliano demonstrates how impressionable teenage girls become victim to the idea that the perfect, mysterious girl is the ideal to which one has to aspire, with bikini waxing, hair dyeing and beer drinking as essential vehicles for becoming mysterious. Through reflection on various stages of her growing up, Magliano comments that this ideal is mysterious because you never know how to be them, or rather, how to be as happy as them.
Yet we still try, and we turn to social media and virtual reality; as Magliano observes, in the world of Instagram and The Sims, we get to play God trying to craft our identity – a better, more desirable version of ourselves. The comparisons are fruitful, but their genuine relevance to the show as a whole could perhaps be made clearer. Some of Magliano’s best moments come unscripted: responses to technical mishaps, rapid ad-libs, realising her dad is in the audience after admittng her first wank was in a beach hut in Tenerife on a family holiday.
There are moments of comic perfection, such as the recurring appearance of Stalin’s Tinder profile, or the comment on her bikini line shaving rash that is so bumpy it looks like she’s written a welcome message in braille. Magliano has a unique tone and style of delivery: wry, endearing, and casually nuanced. Her set is conversational, and it’s very easy to engage and laugh with her. The hour goes by quickly, and the writing flows seamlessly.
The concluding decision to be oneself because this ‘mysterious girl’ does not exist is touching despite its inevitability, and the audience feel they have genuinely got to know Ania, not a filtered, facetuned persona. This is evident in her disregard for formality: welcoming in the audience, offering tailored seat recommendations, inviting everyone to the pub after the show. Magliano owns the room as she narrates the struggles of owning one’s identity.