Suzi Ruffell, Snappy at Soho Theatre review: why on earth isn’t this comic a much bigger star?

Suzi Ruffell  (handout)
Suzi Ruffell (handout)

A number of things have been puzzling me this week. What is going on with adverts for empty Macbook boxes on Gumtree? How do the teams who fix potholes always miss the ones on the roads I drive down? But most of all why isn’t Suzi Ruffell a much, much bigger star?

Ruffell’s latest show Snappy addresses, among numerous other things, her current fame status. The “37-year-old lezza” pithily points out that she is currently at that celebrity level where people recognise her in the street but are not sure if it’s because they’ve seen her on Live at the Apollo or think she was in a family member’s hockey team.

This is just one of many self-deprecating gags in a fast-paced fluid set that puts the emphasis on maximum laughter while smuggling in heartfelt points about mental health, political upheaval and homophobia. A neat running gag involves telling a tiny ‘worry doll’ about her anxieties during the performance.

Ruffell is at her best mining her own family for comedy. There is a particularly rich seam of humour in her Portsmouth geezer dad. She paints a vivid picture of the two of them driving to a flat to tackle a dodgy tenant. The subsequent calamity feels like a lost episode of Only Fools And Horses, made more uproarious when Ruffell says it is true and not embellished for comic effect.

There are also sharp observations about youthful crushes on The Spice Girls in general and Mel C in particular. Elsewhere she discusses dick pics, avoiding social media and awkward encounters where she has been inappropriate.

Her parenting material eloquently conveys the sheer joy and accompanying stress of recent motherhood. She conjures up a glorious image of her toddler as a human tornado who wants to touch everything she should not, from electrical equipment to cat’s bums.

All of this is accompanied by some superb physical comedy, with Ruffell’s act-outs adding visual punchlines to verbal ones. Her impression of a penis peeping out from some lace knickers is not an easy image to shake off.

At times she covers similar territory to stand-up Mae Martin’s new Netflix special Sap. Both are in their 30s, looking back and simultaneously looking forward. And both, purely coincidentally, reference the same character in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Snappy is a fabulously funny show from this class act. At one point Ruffell says that the default, constantly self-conscious modern mindset is to wonder “are we having fun now?” Buy a ticket for this and having fun will be very much on the agenda.

Soho Theatre to April 1, then May 30 to June 3;