It's probably fair to call Catherine Cohen's return 'long-awaited', having surfed a wave of critical acclaim when she debuted in 2019, also scooping the coveted Best Newcomer award at that year's Edinburgh Comedy Awards. As such, there's an electric atmosphere in the Hackney Empire - a pre-show vibe only helped along by a great supporting set by Sikisa, who's just appeared on this series of Live At The Apollo, and continues to go from strength to strength.
That energy has only ever-so-slightly dipped by the end of the evening. Cohen is perfect company on stage: narcissistic and hilarious with it. Unlike in her debut hour, though, that brilliant persona is carrying the show a little too much. Whilst she's excellent in off-the-cuff moments and between-song patter, her songs make up the bulk of her show and they're more hit-and-miss this time round. That debut show of hers is available to watch on Netflix, and I'd strongly recommend it.
Similarly hailing from America, Sara Barron has been living in the UK for ten years now, but is told she "still has quite American energy" - a comment she's observed to probably-not have been meant as a compliment.
This, her third show, is a mix of catching us up on her life since 2019, alongside fish-out-of-water observations on the British. There's stories about IVF, being an older woman on London bus journeys and some fun trashing of one of her acquaintances. It's all stellar material, but - again - it's also just a pleasure to be in Barron's presence for an hour: she's a thrillingly vicious truth-teller. It elevates the show into something a bit more special.
Also offering up observations on the British from the perspective of an outsider is debutant Celya AB. She repeatedly states that this is the show in which she's introducing herself to us, but - unlike many a debut hour - it's not a show that discusses the aspects of her character that dovetail with hot-button social themes - her bisexuality, say. The only aspect of her identity that gets dwelled on for any amount of time is her French nationality. Anything else is good for just a quick punchline, then move on.
There're nice moments of spontaneous knockabout fun with the audience; it'd be good to see a little more of this in any future, less densely-packed shows. Her discussion of watching the chaotic 00s teenage TV drama Skins offers a typically enjoyable, relatable, observation: "For years I thought I liked drugs. Turns out, I like friendship".
Despite never breaking off from this mood of silly, nimble fun to deal with weightier issues, there's little sense of the quality dipping over the course of this full 70 minutes. She's ready for bigger stages than this.