At the early stages of her ‘Riawakening’ set, Ria Lina started her set by wishing Gap Comedy a ‘Happy 6th Birthday!’ – an impressive milestone for the local, not-for-profit and increasingly well renowned club.  Immediately a lively, animated presence on stage, we were treated to an evening of raw, autobiographic material delivered with élan and wicked humour. Lina made a concerted effort to engage warmly with the audience, looking for relationship advice from the almost universally wedded audience – but had reservations over a named ‘Adonis’ in the crowd who’s ‘been trading on that name for a little too long!’

With a Filipina mother, German father and an international education in the Hague, much of Lina’s material was built on reflections of her multicultural background. Lina talked us through her extended education (including a PhD in virology – ‘who would have thought that would come in handy?!’), family dynamics (the trick to raising children is to tell each of them they’re your favourite) and handling her aged ‘Yoda-esque’ mother.  Having recently exited an 18-year marriage, her advice is to focus on a house rather than a husband – ‘at least you’re anticipating interest to vary over time’! Lina augmented her self reflection with a huge degree of feline physicality in the performance. She made full use of the stage – theatrical poses, acting out a graphic visualisation of the ageing process (linear for Caucasians, delayed then severe for Asians) and assuming a ‘Kafkaesque’ beetle position for a childbirth reenactment

The final act was forward looking, with Lina talking us through her new adoption of dating apps and the challenge of defining yourself post a long-term relationship.  While some of the material was a little blue for the reserved Gap Comedy audience – “you have to give the punters in Liverpool and Newcastle something to relate to!”, the overall performance was endearingly fun, frank and kind. Lina is a sharp, acerbic wit who balances provocativeness with perception – an act more than worthy of Gap Comedy’s sixth birthday and an auspicious sign for the years to come.

Max Kibble