"Disabled, gay, and a prick" is how Rosie Jones describes herself, and she wears that description with pride. She has ataxic cerebral palsy—the jokes touch on that—and her delivery’s paced carefully, luring the viewer into a false sense of security. A tale seems to be going one way, but she positively revels in subverting expectations, and she particularly loves a dirty joke. There are some stony faces in the front row, apparently hoping for cleaner language, and not getting it. They’re missing out, it’s not all played for shock value and some of the writing is wonderfully descriptive.
When she isn’t revelling in gags about masturbation and her sexual conquests, Jones uses Backward to challenge the worst elements of society, those who use archaic language and openly display hostility and animosity towards her. She flips the tone suddenly two-thirds in with, firstly, a deeply unpleasant reveal and then an extended meditation on the way we interact with one another. If you have a day filled with positive interactions that ends with one brutal putdown from a stranger, which is likely to stick in the memory?
Backward could benefit from some more rigorous editing; it’s ten minutes too long today, and while the end of the show is powerful and thought-provoking, it'd be more effective if it didn’t take so long to get there. Despite that excess, Backward is a strong show with a compelling narrative and some perversely imaginative punchlines.