Laura Smyth at Leicester Square Theatre review: not just a comedian, a phenomenon

 (Jacob Hare)
(Jacob Hare)

Laura Smyth is definitely having a moment. I don't think I've seen a rising star receive such a rapturous welcome in years.

Ovations at their end of sets are one thing, ovations at the start are rarer than straight-talking politicians. Yet this ex-teacher received one before she had even spoken. Not so much a comedian, more a phenomenon.

Admittedly a lot of her East London friends and family were in tonight supporting her, which might explain some of the loudest roars, but everybody else in the largely female crowd who had seen clips also immediately wanted to be her friend. Smyth has a natural, chatty style of stand-up that instantly connects.

The crop-haired comic, who played a compere in Baby Reindeer, swiftly hit her stride. Her debut full-length show is called Living My Best Life and is a brutally funny take down of anyone who posts filtered selfies on Instagram which bear zero relation to reality. Smyth quickly explained that she has two words for them. The second is "off" and you can guess the first.

But there is way more here than working class roots and gobby put-downs. Smyth has a pure instinct for a relatable story. Recalling her stint in schools she shudders at the memory of pupils spotting her in the wild and chuckles about how she knew she had to quit when the head called her in after spotting her routine online discussing colleagues bitching about each other.

Comedy's gain is education's loss as Smyth is clearly a superb communicator. There are no dips in this bracing, zesty outing that moved briskly across topics that clearly chimed with her audience, from motherhood to the menopause ("like being gaslit by your own body"), from dieting to fathers evolving from almost-absent in her youth to ever-present now: "I don't think my dad knew he had kids."

The laughs stack up so high you wonder if the edifice is going to collapse, but it never does. There are echoes of Micky Flanagan's early material about social mobility in her riffs about becoming middle class, but only distant echoes; she is never derivative.

Smyth should have broken through sooner. The pandemic and a breast cancer diagnosis slowed her down but could not stop her. Following a mastectomy, chemotherapy and further surgery she made her Live at the Apollo debut three weeks after her treatment finished and has not looked back.

There is another London date on Friday and this tour has now been extended into the autumn. She might have intended to send up the idea, but Smyth really is living her best life.

Hackney Empire, Friday and touring. Information here: