Kiri Pritchard-McLean is undoubtedly one of comedy’s hottest rising stars. She’s already impressed at the Fringe with her last two stand-up shows, and cultivated an entirely new audience with the All Killa No Filla podcast. With Victim, Complex, the Welsh comedian may have elevated herself from that cult status to bona fide star. Kiri’s comedy chops were never in question, of course. She’s a natural extrovert, full of energy on stage. There’s something organic about her delivery that suggests this isn’t an act – Kiri on stage is very much the same as Kiri off it. The test was whether she could retain that level of truth – and humour – for a topic very personal to her. The resounding answer is very much a yes.
Victim, Complex begins as a show about relationships, but becomes something darker. Kiri claims to have been the subject of “gaslighting”, a term coined from the popular Patrick Hamilton play, where someone is manipulated into questioning their own sanity. Kiri’s hour is split like the three acts of a play too. Act One details the events that lead up to the eventual break-up of a long-term relationship, while Act Two plays out like a confessional. And like all good thrillers, a final (inevitable) twist brings it all back full-circle. It’s this narrative arc, as well as Kiri’s natural storytelling ability, that makes this show such an engaging watch. Almost every joke is relevant to the story, and those that aren’t are singled out by the performer herself. She lets those throwaway gags get their due with a cheeky smile before carrying on; it’s an endearing quality.
As the story enters its most dramatic phase, Kiri’s own demeanour changes. She may still be wearing a glittery gold dress with a cape, but that fun-loving personality from the start slowly evolves into a hardened, angry one. It’s at this point that the gravity of her struggles becomes clear, and the piece takes on a new life. The jokes are still there, but they serve now only as brief respites in what is essentially a cleansing of Kiri’s rage. There’s a lot of rage, certainly, but she channels it beautifully for the performance. At times, it feels like she is about to crack, her eyes wet and her voice faltering slightly, but she never stumbles. If her cheeky grins are endearing, then her defiance is inspiring.
There’s so little to fault about Victim, Complex, that doing so would feel like nitpicking. The critical acclaim is no surprise, and this really could be the coming-out party for Pritchard-McLean as a household name. Both genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and deeply sad, Victim, Complex taps into an aspect of post-#MeToo society that has perhaps been overlooked. Thanks to an hour of superb comedy, that is no longer the case.