After several shows in which showbiz and song featured as prominently as standup, Jayde Adams doesn’t think she’s being taken seriously enough as a comedian. This year’s offering sets out to fix that. Having not read a book in seven years, Adams has been boning up on feminism. The glam couture has been swapped for a black turtleneck, uniform of the earnest. The Bristolian is not impressed by fourth-wave feminism – or by how Beyoncé and the Kardashians represent it – and is here to take it to task.
The Ballad of Kylie Jenner’s Old Face – good title – is certainly a departure from her previous work, if not the great leap forward some have perceived. (The pop it takes at Beyoncé’s feminism is reheated from previous shows.) Adams pours cold water on the progressive claims made for pop culture icons, arguing they conceal the more radical work being done elsewhere. Perhaps – just perhaps – Jay-Z grabbing his wife’s backside onstage isn’t really advancing the gender equality cause, while Adams posits a very droll analogy for the attractive actor Jameela Jamil writing a book about body positivity.
Her blunt good sense is deployed to optimal effect in these sections, as she highlights the contradictions in our Instagram era between what we see and what we’re told we see. But there are contradictions at play here, too. One routine recounts Adams’s experience of online harassment after she disses a member of the band Little Mix on social media. But in a show purportedly about compassion, her offending tweet isn’t a glowing example of compassion itself.
The bigger problem, though, is that her inquiry into feminism doesn’t reach much of a conclusion. “I think I’ve made my point,” she says at the end, but – having told us her show is about confidence (largely to justify a tangential anecdote about an unpleasant Parisian dining experience), then projected the word “compassion” on her upstage screen – she hasn’t, really. I relished Adams’s takedown of fashionable pop-feminism, which is very well done. Less so the lessons she draws from it.