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One of my earliest invitations for the Edinburgh Fringe was Abigail Paul’s ‘Involuntary Momslaughter’: a reflective comedy where Paul looks back at her childhood and generational abuse that she experienced. Following a similar theme to Jeanette McCurdy’s best selling book ‘I am Glad My Mom Died’ which looks at the actress’s complex childhood, Paul “wants to empower survivors and show humor can heal” through her humorous account of a traumatic upbringing. I’ve reviewed a lot of trauma-related and hard-hitting theatre this year, but this show takes complex themes and blends them with outrageous comedy, something I haven’t covered before on my website. I couldn’t wait to review Paul’s material and also add a different genre to my fringe schedule.
Comedy as a form of therapy
Before I talk about Involuntary Momslaughter in detail, I must acknowledge how much she has been through in her life thus far. I honestly find it admirable how she has been able to take some extremely traumatic experiences and turn them into a brilliant piece of comedy that has the power to help others. The material is shocking and will be distressing for some viewers, but covering her experiences from a humorous angle makes the material easier to watch. Naturally it is an adults only show given the complex themes of trauma, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t horrified by her anecdotes. She does manage to spin the content so that you laugh along with her though and champion the person she has grown to be.
Paul’s comedy style is thought-provoking, daring and will appeal to people who can appreciate a dark sense of humour. There were moments where I was thinking you can’t say that about your mother, but then I quickly realised that this is the wider point she is trying to make: it is okay to not look back fondly on your childhood. I was also at the show with my own Mum and the whole experience made me hug her even tighter: evidence of the emotional response Paul’s work had on me.
To complement the dark side of the material, Paul throws in some political, cultural and crude humour as well. The political lines were bold and landed well, adding depth and perspective to her work. In contrast, the cultural and female health-related humour were funny, but a little too literal for my taste. With so many comics at the Fringe, Involuntary Momslaughter caught my attention as a result of its individuality. The personal anecdotes about expat life take the material on a tangent which diverges away from the core themes, but thankfully Paul comes full circle at the end of the show and I could at least appreciate the impact these more recent experiences have had on her life.
A captivating storyteller
Storytelling is Paul’s greatest strength and it genuinely feels as if the audience has joined her for a character building session. Supported by a slide deck filled with old photographs and screenshots, it is almost like she is having an out of body experience, reflecting on memories with a sense of humour. My only core critique is that I wish the show had ended differently. There is a musical section at the end of the show which brings the whole piece together, but it didn’t feel necessary given that the comic had my attention and respect in the first few minutes.
An unexpected delight of my fringe schedule, Abigail Paul: Involuntary Momslaughter is an absolute must-see for anyone with a dark sense of humour. I am excited to personally follow Abigail on her comedy journey, as honestly I think she is fantastic. Involuntary Momslaughter is playing at Greenside @ Riddles Court (Willow Studio, venue #16) from 4th to 26th August, excluding the 13th and 20th. Tickets can be purchased via the Fringe box office.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*My ticket for Involuntary Momslaughter was gifted in exchange for a review.