Review: Sophie Duker: Venus

Sophie Duker delivers whip-smart social commentary from her perspective as a “triple threat minority”

comedy review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
32614 large
Sophie Duker
Published 04 Aug 2019

Named after the “Hottentot Venus,” the Khoekhoe slave trafficked from colonial South Africa to Europe as a freak show exhibit, Venus takes issue with the objectification of the black female body whilst asserting a desire for women of colour to be defined as individuals on their own terms. 

This astute political analysis is buoyed by wordplay, shrewd storytelling and pop culture hot-takes on everything from Balamory to Dr Who-themed porn as Duker uses her comedic talent to engage with misrepresentations of black femininity. A recurring theme emerges in the way that black stories are skewed by white perspectives – whether it be Stacy Dooley-style white saviourism or hyper-sexualisation of women of colour in white erotic fantasies. 

Autobiographical snippets—an anecdote about absentee fathers and an Uber driver named Daddy comes to mind here, as well as the musing that lesbian sex can feel like “working in hospitality”—are interwoven with crowd-pleasing cultural observations, demonstrating that Duker can speak from her specific positionality without ever being limited by it.

Using humour to challenge ingrained biases, Duker appoints a member of the audience as the “white man ambassador” – highlighting the ridiculousness of making any individual a representative of their entire demographic, as people of colour are too often tasked with doing. This move also gestures elsewhere, towards the fact that white male perspectives are read as “universal”, rather than as the socially and culturally specific viewpoints they are.