Luisa Omielan at Soho Theatre: It’s a mystery why this lively comic isn’t a household name

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A decade ago Luisa Omielan looked like comedy’s next big thing. Her Edinburgh Fringe debut, What Would Beyoncé Do?! was a massive hit. Yet somehow, while she continued to deliver terrific live works and in 2018 was the first comedian to be a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit, she has never had the mainstream acclaim she deserved.

Now, while it feels like the entire comedy world is Edinburgh-bound, Omielan is in Soho performing a retrospective compilation of her best bits, with the Adele-sounding title of Ten. Which is apt as this high energy, entertaining, thought-provoking show also features some of Adele’s music among a peppering of empowering pop bangers.

This Greatest Hits format is rarely done in comedy and it must have been a challenge choosing what to fit into a 75-minute set. There was not as much about class as I’d have expected. Or as much about politics as I’d hoped. But there were plenty of punchy routines about relationships, a subject close to Omielan’s heart ever since this bubbly, clownish dynamo first made waves.

At 39 she is a little less fit than she was. What would Beyoncé do? “Go to the gym,” she joked. Omielan is more into body positivity and partying than working out. At one point she prodded a tiny roll of fat around her waist, explaining that this is what you get if you enjoy life.

She presents a populist outlook that is as relatable today as it ever was. Only the technology has changed. On the subject of dating she talked about how long to wait to send a text after the first night together, confessing to be a “needy weasel”. It might be Whatsapps or voice notes now but the sentiment still rings true.

One updated section referenced Roe v Wade. Omielan worries that abortion rights might soon be under threat over here and has a suggestion to fight it involving taxation, which sounds far-fetched but no more than some some of the economic ideas being bandied around by Tory leadership candidates.

A recurring motif was the way she has missed various boats, whether in terms of relationships or career. When she first performed in Soho a newcomer, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was workshopping a similarly frank piece called Fleabag in the studio upstairs. I wonder what happened to her?

As for Omielan, it is a mystery why she isn’t a household name. Her thigh gap riff – recreated here to appreciative whoops – attracted multi-millions of hits online. Yet somehow she has not been able to repeat that success on television. Maybe she fails to fit into a conventional female comedy template. In which case television’s templates should change, not Omielan.

Soho Theatre, to August 13; sohotheatre.com

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