Kate Wilkinson gets the reviewing lark right, on the whole, with a nice balance between exposition and commentary.
Her style is engaging, and she gives just enough away for the reader to want to know more. Of That Pair she tells us “The Truth About Girls is surely destined to become a feminist anthem; its chorus ‘girls, girls, girls… anatomically we are girls’ is now stuck in my head”. For thunderbards, she reveals that “Stevens has a knack for deadpan characterisation and impresses on the guitar with a sad, serious song. We know that’s what it is because it’s in a minor key, he tells us.” All of this is succinct, appetite-whetting and doesn’t spoil any major surprises.
Wilkinson is usually very clear, but every now and then will come out with something a bit bizarre. “Massive Dad … have a sense of humour like Japanese fusion cooking, with their combination of social detail and zaniness,” she says. Does Japanese fusion cooking contain social detail and zaniness? Well no, of course it bloody doesn’t. Wilkinson’s attempts to then drily explain sketches she knows are “absurd” comes across as… well, absurd. You won’t understand what any of Massive Dad’s vingettes were about by means of Wilkinson’s plodding summaries; she should have either rethought how to do this or concluded that you had to be there.
Similarly, we’d like to meet the sub-editor who let her get away with “Off-beat, deliberately bad acting and moments of eccentric rage make Bond the clown to Shaw’s straight(ish) man (woman (princess)).” Punctuation is a lady, not a whore.
But for the most part it’s clear, and engaging, and even entertaining. And when Wilkinson doesn’t like something she’s very down-the-line with it. “The inclusion of one too many naff puns comes across as lazy rather than ironic … A few of the sketches rely too heavily on gimmicky techniques such as the interior monologue voice-over”.
It all feels quite solid and reliable. You can trust her judgment. Wilkinson just needs to be stricter with herself and tidy up her copy. Goodness knows the Fringe freesheets won’t do it for her.