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Jessie Cave: Sunrise Review

21 November 2018 Billie Manning

Jessie Cave is many things: writer, illustrator, Harry Potter alumni, mother, and since 2015’s I Loved Her, acclaimed comic.

I Loved Her chronicled her very first relationship, which began after she got pregnant on the first date with fellow comedian Alfie Brown. Intense? Well, gear up, because a second child and one break-up later, Cave is back with a show covering her post-split life: warts (literally) and all.
 
This is extremely personal fodder, running straight from stalking her ex’s new girlfriend on Instagram and inputting her birthday with his on a love compatibility website, to a visit to the STI clinic. But the (very) explicit details – waxes gone wrong, cupboard sex, etc. – never come across self-indulgent, and neither do her more serious moments, touching on sexual assault and its echoes.

There are some utterly hilarious tales: pushing her 2-year-old daughter away in horror as she goes to kiss mummy’s eye better – an eye which is inflamed thanks to a new boyfriend’s unfortunate aim. More than that, though, it’s an exploration of a world we hear about very little outside of dramatic reality TV shows: that of a young single mother. Cave delightfully, whimsically, flips the label, abandoning a Byron restaurant on a second date because she has to get home by 11pm for the kids - and she wants to have as much sex as humanly possible before then.
 
Though Cave’s evolution during the piece is subtle, her emotional journey to growth becomes clear by the end of the narrative arc and is satisfying to watch, though it isn’t without its irony knowing that, according to recent interviews, Cave and Brown have made something of a tentative truce.
 
This is comedic theatre, a one-woman show, more than stand-up. Cave comes up with some clever devices, using pillows with faces representing Brown and a new boyfriend sewn on to act as her interlocutors in re-enactments of their conversations. But Cave actually especially shines when she reacts to the audience, playing off them, though she rarely does so. She retains an almost neurotically high level of control over the piece and its language as she describes herself as retaining over her life.
 
Maybe it would be helpful to Cave creatively to relinquish control in her art slightly, as it appears to have helped her to do so in real life by the end of Sunrise, when she waves Brown off to Australia, because it’s delightful when she steps outside the script. ‘That’s not funny,’ mutters Cave with a sardonic glint in her eye, when the someone in the audience lets out a wail of a giggle after she explains her crushing insecurity over Brown’s having slept with, as she describes it, ‘London’. The thing is, it is funny, and Cave knows it, and that’s part of the charm – most of what she is talking about is genuinely difficult and sad, but Cave has crafted it into something that feels light, honest and properly funny.

Jessie Cave: Sunrise, until 1 December, Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE

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