by Zahid Fayyaz
After previous runs at the Soho Theatre in the upstairs space and at Edinburgh Fringe, this American comedian returns to the to the bigger cabaret space for her most recent, hour-long set. This is the story of Emily Wilson’s starring role in the first X-Factor USA, first as part of a duo and then later in an ill-advised, 10 kid group.
What initially seems a light-hearted show soon darkens when it shifts into the areas of exploitation and verbal abuse. Wilson at 15 was clearly too young to participate in such a harsh, reality TV environment, with little care seemingly taken by the X-Factor producers to protect her and her fellow young contestants. Whilst at the time the rejection was seen as comedic, it’s clear that what was actually going on was traumatising and exploitative. This is demonstrated well during the evening. The show itself still stays funny, thankfully. Wilson is a great performer, who incorporates some excellent jokes, asides and comic songs to propel the story forwards. The use of archive footage is effective, and blends seamlessly into the narrative and humour of the show. The songs are written specifically for the show, and are catchy. Its not hard to see how it’s a form of catharsis for her to be performing after such awful experiences.
Some of the references and comedy around Mitt Romney rely on an understanding of early 2010’s American political culture, but the performance and writing doesn’t let the audiences get too lost in the weeds. Overall, this is a thought provoking and humorous show, and well worth watching.
Emily Wilson: Fixed runs through 23 March.
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