What does it mean to bring a child into the world? Josie Long‘s latest offering, Tender, delved into this in a uniquely touching and comic way, despite a lack of surprising subject matter, with childbirth, motherhood and climate change as the foundations underpinning it.
It’s always been the treatment of such ideas which has distinguished Long from other performers; dealing with bigger themes which audiences can relate to, but using them to make something much smaller and more intimate, surrendering the macro in favour of the micro, and zooming in onto tiny moments or fragments of thoughts and feelings – both as part of her stand-up and in her storytelling/documentary series, Radio 4’s Short Cuts.
Much of the joy of Tender was in Long’s signature rhythms and textures, with her familiar stylistic touches such as briefly untamed rage away from the mic, bounding positivity and the odd silly voice thrown into the mix. Indeed, the addition of whimsical detours while detailing the stages of childbirth were a lovely ingredient for extra laughs, not least the references to Michael Gove.
It’s hardly unexpected that Long’s sense of hope is drawn from figures such as Greta Thunberg, and her message of unbridled joy and optimism is at odds with most commentary on contemporary geopolitics – that she was able to create such a wealth of jokes from such alarming topics is definitely aided by her warm and open-hearted approach, willing the audience along for the ride. And if that didn’t get you, then playful dialogues with a toy seal were the next step.
Tender was, at its core, an essay, with Long presenting ideas and hopes, and asking the audience to join in; never talking down or telling people why to care, merely reassuring them that it’s good to care at all. Like Long’s oeuvre, it was filled with love and gags – and aren’t they the most important things?