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Marjolein ready to talk relations at fringe show

Shetland comedian Marjolein Robertson is about to begin a three-week stint at the Free Fringe in Edinburgh. Photo: John Carolan

SHETLAND comedian Marjolein Robertson starts a three-week residency in Edinburgh this weekend with her new stand-up show.

The 28 year old, who grew up on the west side, has been building her reputation thanks to an 11-date stint in the Scottish capital for the Free Fringe last summer and a series of popular videos featured on BBC The Social in recent months.

Saturday (5 August) sees her begin a demanding run of 21 shows in 22 nights at the Black Market on the city’s Market Street, near Waverley Station, with the hour-long show beginning at 6.15pm each evening. Her final fringe performance comes on 26 August.

She describes Marjolein Robertson: Relations as a mixture of observational comedy and storytelling that “looks at all kinds of relations: familial, romantic, or lack thereof”.

“When you’re doing something like the fringe, there’s over 3,000 shows over the next 30 days or so, and over 50,000 performances – you need a point of interested,” Marjolein tells Shetland News.

“I’m the only female Shetland comedian. Folk are interested in it. It’s a small island, and even if they don’t know Shetland in particular, everyone knows of a small island or village, or has been there for a holiday.”

She hopes to draw on life in a small island to show people an alternative perspective on life: “what you see as odd or normal may be different” depending on the nature of your upbringing.

Marjolein will be exploring family traditions, as well as the experience of becoming an auntie, but in choosing “relations” as a theme has given herself something of a “catch-all theme”.

Having set out with three strands – “familial, romantic and political” – she ended up taking out all of the political jokes “because they’d been done a million times”.

She has vetted the material with her family, though “by the end I will always be the butt of the joke, or there’ll be a funny anecdote. I wouldn’t want to say anything about anyone which would be mean, I don’t think I’m that kind of comedian. It’s more self-deprecating.”

Marjolein’s parents, siblings, niece and family pets often feature in her contributions to BBC The Social, a series of social media videos featuring a host of creative people from across Scotland.

By looking at her own family’s quirks, beginning with something as simple as how family members will always sit in the same chair at dinner, she hopes to “see how far weird family habits go between different houses”.

How does she feel about a schedule that allows her just one night off in three weeks? “Last year was 11 days. I’d never done anything longer than a 10-minute set, so to do a 50-minute show – can I even write this many jokes and remember them all? – last year was a test.

“I only did half a run as I was quite nervous. I’ve gone for the full run this year.”

She tested out some of the material at fringe events in Wellington and Auckland during a visit to New Zealand earlier this year.

Marjolein has also been an integral part of efforts to cultivate a comedy scene within Shetland, including the staging of regular improv nights.

She is relishing having the BBC platform to build a following while living in Shetland: “I really would like to continue working in comedy, but I also really want to live in Shetland. With the BBC Social I can make a name for myself whilst being where I love.”

And, between taking in other shows and seeking advice from industry figures at the fringe, she hopes to find new ways of expanding her comedy career.

“The options are open for comedians like myself who are working on their own and promoting themselves – tours around local halls, circuits of country halls around Scotland and Britain,” Marjolein says.

“By the end of the month, I’ll have two hours of material – last year’s and this year’s – so it’d be more feasible for me to tour with two 45 minute sets, so it might be a good thing to look at in future.”

  • Marjolein Robertson: Relations runs at the Black Market, 32 Market Street, Venue 399, Edinburgh from 5-26 August (with a night off on the 15th) from 6.15-7.15pm. Entry is free.
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