After a shock drop out of last year’s Fringe following the passing of her mother, Luisa Omielan is back with something to say – and she’s here to make you listen.

Luisa Omielan is a force of nature, an extraordinary performer who could be said to have created her own comedy genre. Somewhere between the thinking woman’s hen party
and laugh-out-loud, fearlessly feminist stand-up, Omielan’s debut, What Would Beyoncé Do?, came out of nowhere to take the 2012 Fringe by storm.

The show has now toured worldwide, filling auditorium after auditorium with a totally new kind of comedy fan. Luisa Omielan touched the laughing parts of women worldwide, leaving them entertained and empowered.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 15:00:01 on 19/06/2018 – Programme Name: Luisa Omielan’s Politics For Bitches – TX: n/a – Episode: n/a (No. n/a) – Picture Shows: ++++publication of this image is strictly embargoed until 1500 hours Tuesday June 19th, 2018+++++ Luisa Omielan – (C) King Bert – Photographer: N/A

Her second show, Am I Right Ladies?!, picked up the Spanx discarded by Beyoncé and ground them into the floors of stages everywhere. She had no PR team or production machine, no big booking agent, nothing but talent, chutzpah, and charisma. And Helena, her mum: her inspiration, her best friend, her production manager, and whatever else she needed to be to get Luisa on the road. Together they were conquering the world. They made an appearance together on Comic Relief to much acclaim, and Team HelLu were even making solid progress up that slipperiest of poles, TV comedy. Luisa was booked for Live at the Apollo.

And then, last year happened. “I still don’t understand it, she did everything right.

“[She was] super slim, super healthy, didn’t drink or smoke or eat much meat, she did everything she was supposed to but she started feeling unwell,” Omielan says.

“She went to the doctors 12 times and was told there was nothing wrong. She tried to get a colonoscopy and was made to wait six weeks. She finally went for the appointment only to be told it was not a colonoscopy but an appointment with a nurse to see if she warranted one. Apparently she didn’t, despite showing clear symptoms, and was sent home. I took her to A&E, where she was diagnosed with stomach and bowel cancer but couldn’t get a full diagnosis until she saw a oncologist. He only worked on Mondays and wasn’t available for 3 weeks but that week was a Bank Holiday so we had to wait four weeks to see someone. She was sent home on a feeding tube machine and Calpol, and died 7 weeks later. It was brutal.” 

It was as if both died then. Certainly, the Luisa Omielan who takes to the stage now is a different animal. What Beyoncé has done is nothing, since Luisa lost Helena.

“I actually haven’t been able to do that show, or Am I Right Ladies?!, since then. I changed my live shows to the story of my mum. I don’t think I can ever do those shows again. They were entrenched in my mum and her love and support. I’ve bombed a lot recently. Unless I can talk about my mum, I can’t seem to do well.”

This Fringe, there’s a new Luisa on the stage – and she has a bigger message to send. “Before, I used to sell positive body image and ‘don’t worry if you have a thigh gap or not.’ Now I’m like, fuck that, I’ve got bigger fish to fry. I’ve put on three stone; I don’t care if you have body issues. People are being failed with fatal consequences.

“Let’s talk about why an MP is still in position as Health Secretary when the people he represents have had to march in protest of his policies. Fuck a thigh gap, babe. Watch someone you love vomit shit out of their own mouth and then see how much you care about whether a guy would fuck you depending on your thighs touching.”

House Lightroom Exercise 1

In memory of Helena, Luisa has started a charity in support of the hospice movement and has already raised and distributed over £40,000. “It was a hospice who gave my mum peace, and hospices are charity funded. Palliative care receives minimal government funding. When you are dying, you don’t want your pain relief to be based on how many cupcakes a school can sell at a fête. Once you are dying, you are spat out. With all the support around cancer, how can they let someone die so horrifically?”

Helena was in constant, agonising pain, for which, it seemed, modern medicine could do nothing. So Luisa Omielan looked for other means of helping. “Cannabis oil is a natural substance with huge healing benefits, but it’s a class A drug. I used it for my mum as an effective pain relief; she would be sleepy but could still walk around the house. She wouldn’t be in huge amounts of pain and it was manageable. Eventually, after three and a half weeks, my mum saw the oncologist who said she had no real treatment options.

“I told him about the oils, he refused to comment, and prescribed a high dose syringe driver of morphine. Within 24 hours my mum’s condition deteriorated and she was dying with pneumonia. We got her back into hospital, off the morphine and I told them she never reacted badly to cannabis oil, at which point one of the doctors reported me. The police came out to bring me to the station. The matron intervened and explained, the officer left and was lovely about it. He said he didn’t want to arrest me but had to follow procedure. Why don’t they punish the doctor who missed [the cancer] twelve times, or the oncologist who made her wait so long, or the management head of the NHS who allowed this to happen?”

So now, as well as raising the much needed money to help fund hospices, Luisa Omielan is – onstage and off – a vociferous advocate of legalising cannabis. And there is one other reason she gets back onstage: “I feel closer to her when I’m onstage and flying. For some reason, when I get that love from the audience, I feel like she’s there. Recently I played Belfast, one of my favourite places and they were so connected and interactive and they all gave me a standing ovation but were proper clapping and laughing and high energy and then we all just started dancing. And my mum loved dancing and in my head, I’m like, ‘Mum, look, they’re dancing. I’m dancing,’ and I feel like she’s there going, ‘I know darling, I’m dancing too.”

Luisa Omielan: Politics for Bitches – Where & When

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 1-26 August (not 14, 23), 9pm, from £14 Tel: 0131 622 6552

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