Harriet Kemsley masterfully blends comedic styles, using stories, observations and bits to keep the audience roaring. If you tried to pin her down you might describe her as a character comedian but there is no character. It’s her actual, loveable personality that drives the show.
Bad at Doing focuses on dyspraxia: the developmental disorder that complicates coordination and movement and affects around five percent of the population. Kemsley breaks down the word to its roots, bad at action and explains how she’s translated this to her current self description:“bad at doing.”
The show covers her comic diagnosis and following revelations. In hindsight, much of her childhood can be explained by this little-known disorder. To give any audience members suffering from similar frequent falls or uncanny accidents their excuse, she treats them to an impromptu dyspraxia test.
Her earnest, frank discussion of the disorder beautifully brings out the comedy in its symptoms whilst perfectly initiating some much-needed awareness.
To illustrate and even problematise some of the language around dyspraxia, she brings along the letter she received after her diagnosis, walking the audience through how it patronizes and infantilises her.
Despite all of the jokes about her incompetence, Harriet Kemsley could not be more capable. The conversation around different ability levels is increasingly difficult to navigate but she fosters an open, lighthearted environment by centering the discussion around her experiences both of having dyspraxia and of learning about it.
She is genial and witty, traversing subjects with all of the grace and skill of a much older comedian. The way she looks at the world is ingenious and hilarious, but unlike some comedians she doesn’t share these revelations in slow reveals but unleashes them in full force.
“I call that the traitor bar,” she declares with confidence, imitating the bar above the windows passengers hold when they are concerned about her driving. She rebrands, rewords and even sneaks in the most cringeworthy stories without losing a single audience member. Her explanations may seem quirky, but she is too captivating to question.
Kemsley is bad at lots of things and has stories en masse to prove it. One thing she isn’t bad at is comedy, and this is one free fringe show well-worth the queue.
Harriet Kemsley: Bad at Doing
Just the Tonic @The Caves
Until 27 August