Sarah millican

Sarah Millican blooms from shy teen to comedy queen in new show

Sarah Millican took the stage at the New Theatre on 18th May to rapturous applause. Having accumulated a loyal following after fifteen years on the mainstream comedy circuit, many in the audience probably knew exactly what to expect from her new show.

Late Bloomer, which Millican began touring last September, explores similar themes to previous shows, summarised by one critic as “unglamorous-but-glorious womanhood”. But why fix what isn’t broken? Millican’s ability to spin the straw of domestic inanity into gold-star vulgarity is as keen as ever. Longtime fans who have seen her standup before, myself included, will recognise frequently-trodden sources of humour in Millican’s set – her husband’s domestic incompetence, her parents’ zaniness, her love for animals.

However, it would almost be disingenuous for Millican to attempt to drastically switch up her talking points between tours. She prides herself on maintaining a sort of static down-to-earth charm to assure audiences that she retains the vivaciousness that earned her the Best Newcomer award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008. On being asked by a friend why she doesn’t use Apple Pay, Millican says: “I stopped learning new things two years ago, it’s going really well.”

An eagle-eared audience member might even detect the subtle recycling of some quips from earlier in her career – not in their entirety, but to build up a fresh funny take so it can stand on well-trodden thematic ground. On the spectrum of comedic cardinal sins this is hardly the worst thing to include in a set, but it serves to remind the listener that there is little to separate the jokes in Late Bloomer from those in Bobby Dazzler, Control Enthusiast, or another older show. Having taken new shows on tour every two years or so since 2010, this is not exactly surprising. How much can one person’s life change in that time?

Millican’s tour deserves the caveat that there is a loose theme incorporated to help it stand apart from her previous work. Late Bloomer sees her comparing her quiet teenage self to the bluntly confident comedic superstar of today. She reads out school reports and comments on the judgemental women’s magazines she once perused to clue the audience into her adolescent mindset. Meanwhile, buying ‘magic’ jeans at M&S and being recognised by a hotel cleaner are hallmarks of Millican’s contemporary experience.

The mirroring of Millican at 16 compared to 48 might be a more successful motif if her past shows hadn’t also included frequent discussion of her school days. The whole thing ends up feeling rather rehearsed, even if she has got the practice of extracting nuggets of humour from such experiences down to a science.

Perhaps for this reason, the most enthralling part of the evening was when she asked audience members the strangest things to be found in their bags and had to improv responses to tattoo balm and shewees being shouted back. Again though, audience interaction has been a consistent feature of Millican’s shows since her very first. She felt like a practised manager of her crowd’s eccentricities, fitting their humour into her pre-programmed avenues of joke crafting.

It ultimately makes sense for Millican to continue producing the kind of shows that her fans first fell in love with her for. She is undeniably the queen of British crude comedy, but audiences seeking an expansion on her older material will mostly find repetition instead.

She seems to have a unique pull amongst older comedy audiences who chuckle under their breath at the rudest thing they’ve heard all year, and come back when she’s next in their neck of the woods. You could definitely feel the force of the welcome the New Theatre audience extended to Millican. She brings them the same humour as before, ever so slightly wizened and polished up, and they keep coming back.