After exploring the dark side of comedy as writer and director of Gein’s Family Giftshop, Kiri Pritchard-McLean turns the spotlight on her own darkest hour with her most personal stand-up show yet.

 “I find this very hard to talk about,” says Kiri Pritchard-McLean.“But there was a really terrifying bit where I was convinced I was completely mad – because I trusted him, I loved him and I believed him.”

‘He’ is Kiri Pritchard-McLean ’s ex-boyfriend and the unnamed, absent co-star of her complicated, dark and funny tale of lies, cheating and gaslighting. The couple had been together for a while when Kiri heard a rumour that he’d been unfaithful. He denied it so convincingly that she accepted his story – and then, as things started happening that didn’t add up, he told her it was all in her head, that she was going mad, that everyone was worried about her because she was being so irrational… 

It’s a textbook piece of gaslighting – a psychology term named after the eponymous 1940 film where a husband torments his wife by playing with the gaslights then denying they’d flickered at all. Gaslighting has bubbled into public consciousness recently but Kiri was convinced it could never happen to her. 

“I didn’t realise that I was in quite a dangerous situation, because I’m tough, smart, university educated, and I’m an empowered woman,” Kiri Pritchard-McLean explains. “I know what a victim looks like and it doesn’t look like me. I’m the person who looks after everyone in my life so it couldn’t be me that needed help.”

The resulting deeply personal show is a departure for the 31-year-old, whose recent forays to the Fringe have been high concept stuff, from writing and directing gothic comedy troupe Gein’s Family Giftshop, through 2016’s stand-up debut about sexism in comedy to last year’s show about mentoring a vulnerable teenager. 

'I’m the person who looks after everyone in my life so it couldn’t be me that needed help.”Click To Tweet

“I was originally writing about our empathy deficit – talking to non-offending paedophiles because that’s a group I think we all struggle to empathise with,” Kiri Pritchard-McLean says with a smile. “Eventually I realized – I can’t not talk about this. I felt like I was being silenced in loads of different ways and, with stand-up, I’ll be expressing myself in the purest way possible – so I can’t be misconstrued or misinterpreted.”

It’s a typically bold move from a bold comic – born tough, or rapidly made so growing up on a farm near Anglesey with two big brothers, a dad, “who’s a proper Del Boy” and a mum from farming stock who worked in an old people’s home, “wiping arses, as she so eloquently put it.”

She’s always been ferocious about her art – playing tough rooms and working hard to ensure her feminist critiques of the industry came from experience and that, “any of you sexist old bastards who’ve been on bills with me have watched me turn a tough room around,” Kiri Pritchard-McLean says defiantly. “I’ve earned my right to have this conversation.” 

Does she think this will be a #metoo festival? She snorts. “Not in the sense of dealing with the sexual harassment in the industry but people are at least talking about it on stage. I’m not saying the problems won’t take a very long time to solve but the conversation is only ever moving forward. For me, I have to tell my own story and that’s what the show is about. Being really honest and talking about stuff that matters is difficult but it’s comedy at its best.”

WHERE & WHEN

Kiri Pritchard-McLean: Victim, Complex Pleasance Courtyard, 1–27 August, 8pm, from £10.50

Buy Tickets

All Killa No Filla Live, Underbelly George Square, 5, 12, 19, 26 August, times vary, £14

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