Jen Brister: Meaningless


When I ask how you would feel if you had to move in with your mother? What you think of the patriarchy? Of menopause? Of Gwyneth Paltrow? I assume you’ve all considered the same word… ‘frustrating‘. Meaningless takes you on a journey through the frustrating checkpoints in life, narrated (or should I say erratically screamed) by Jen Brister.

Mums. Frustratingly odd creatures, aren’t they? If living with your mother whose answer to tragedy was tapas, and being unable to sleep for two years as a result of twin boys wasn’t enough, learning you were also peri-menopausal would be enough to induce anyone to spontaneously combust whilst speaking. Brister’s mother is an outspoken, Spanish woman who lives with her and judges her every move, so I suppose it is harder to relate to her tales of frustration. My mother lives an hour away, loves Gardeners Question Time and prefers Earl Grey to English Breakfast. You’ve probably imagined exactly what she looks like, and you would be right, minus the tweed.

Brister’s ability to utilise her own experiences to portray vivid, yet relatable material, is precisely what made the show captivating, and empathetically educational. Most mothers, she explained, tend to adopt alternative nicknames for their sons, such as ‘mummy’s special boy’, and there they begin life with an ego-complex. Daughters, on the other hand, are set the impossible task of achieving their mother’s dreams and meeting their standards. Is it therefore any wonder that the patriarchy, in all its self-proclaimed glory, still exists?

Thankfully, Brister also isn’t the type to conform, as she makes sure to memorably address the shunned topic of periods. Three whole minutes passed whilst she performed an idea for an advert where she repeatedly pretended to thump a man with her handbag because she was ‘on the rag’. Though the repetition of each thump catalysed further laughter, this sketch over-shadowed the hilarity of the proceeding advice, instructing how to respond when you are on your period, and a man asks you how you are. After the show, my brother asked me how I was, and I’m sorry Jen, but I didn’t tell him I was “inexplicably horny whilst simultaneously repulsed at the sight of my own body”.

Whilst pre-occupying the audience with hilarious imitations of her Spanish mother, whilst thumping an imaginary misogynist, Brister cleverly intersects important feminist ideals throughout the set. “Why are women taught to worry about such trivial issues? Never mind the thigh gap, it’s the gender pay gap you should be more concerned with”. Mentions of the #MeToo movement also became significant to the show, illustrating that the female voice is more effective in masses, yet will still be opposed by the usual criticism that, ‘it’s gone too far’. As Brister points out, since the #MeToo movement, we haven’t witnessed a decline in sexual assault. Therefore, has it gone far enough?

Ultimately, the ironically named Meaningless utilises comedy to influence positive societal change, whilst simultaneously encouraging frequent eruptions of laughter.

If you have ever used the phrase ‘you were pretty funny, and I don’t usually find women funny‘, then you need to see this show.

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