The house music as we arrive to be seated for Branded is ‘Common People’ by Pulp, a song that slams wealthy people who enjoy ‘slumming it’ and romanticising poverty. Sophie Willan has lived the working class life and is here to talk about her life but hoping not to turn it into some sort of poverty porn. She doesn’t want to be a cliché.
Sophie’s comedy makes me feel like I’m at a family do in a pub and Aunty Helen is holding court saying: “we weren’t brought up, we were dragged up”. Sophie has had a rough life, with drug addict and mentally impaired relatives, council estate life, foster parents she didn’t like, judgemental teachers and social welfare workers who have labelled her rather than try to understand her.
Not all is dark and scary, Sophie also has a lot of solid material about moving down to London, modern dating and being a single woman while surrounded by friends settling down. The most eye opening section is when she takes us for a stomp through the British politics that parallels her lifetime and basically how fucked it all is, from Thatcher through New Labour to Brexit. Sophie knows her shit and provides a fascinating, lived experience that is, of course hilarious as well as horrifying.
Sophie’s from Bolton which is north east of Manchester and it’s wonderful to hear a twenty first century northern comedian who is lightyears away from the “My wife’s a nagging bitch” blokes who were so popular in my childhood. Although I don’t like to label Sophie she is witty, brassy, and fearless. Branded is great night of autobiographical stand-up. Take your Aunty Helen.
Sophie Willan performs Branded at the Melbourne Town Hall til April 22