General Entertainment The Theatre 2 hours


Absolute powershed and regular host of The Guilty Feminist, Jessica Fostekew explores her big strong strength. Have you ever watched a feminist try and take ‘hench’ as a compliment? It’s like watching a snake eat but funny.

In preview, Hench was nominated for Best Show at the Leicester Comedy Festival.

You’ve seen Jessica in BBC sitcoms Motherland and Cuckoo and BAFTA Award-winning drama Three Girls.

She's also in forthcoming feature films: Gavin Hood’s Official Secrets and Michael Winterbottom’s Greed. She writes for 8 out of 10 Cats.

Photo Credit: Idil Sukan



Having grown up in Swanage, Jess Fostekew is thrilled to be on her way back to Dorset for her biggest show in her home county when she brings her one-woman show Hench to LIghthouse on 24 October. 

In this special Q&A she tells us about how she came to write the show and why she loves Dorset... 

Please could you explain a bit about the show and how it came about? 

Initially I realised I’d subconsciously been writing jokes about strength and anger and I suppose as a by-product about vulnerability and composure too. Probably in part because I had been enjoying the highs and lows of parenting a particularly fizzy toddler, when I say ‘fizzy’, feel free to read ‘little sh**.’  

And in turn I’d finally discovered a type of exercise, in weightlifting, which I found really, really, really fun, that for the first time ever I was moving and pushing my body out of love for the thing itself, rather than to pointlessly try and get thin.  

Which historically, psychologically had been the nail in the coffin, quite quickly, of any other type of exercise for me. Then I had a thing happen in a gym where I was given a compliment on my strong appearance and my immediate emotional reaction jarred so much with my considered, intellectual one - that I thought ‘oh, well, that’s a fascinating internal conflict.’  

Equally, I learned an incredible amount about myself from giving birth to my son and I’d started to work that story into stand up and loved being able to include that in the show.  

Finally, I have a podcast all about eating (called Hoovering), which over the last two years has taught me so much and transformed how I think about bodies and eating, so I wanted to tie the things I’d discovered about the diet industry into the show as well. So, I thought I was writing a show about strength, but that turned out to just be the starting point of, I think, what ended up being far more a show about gender, in the end.  

God, I don’t think I make it sound very funny when I talk about it in this detailha ha! It is also funny. I promise. But yeah, for the first time, after 12 years in stand up I finally got the wits about me to take on some big juicy, and I think prescient, themes. 

What kind of reactions does the show provoke; and do they divide on gender lines? 

Laughter. Tears. Rage. Reassurance. Empowerment. Disagreement, occasionally. Catharsis. And no, no divide on gender lines. 

I’ve read that you’re from Dorset and are working on a sitcom about a group of friends to be set here – can you tell us any more? How important is Dorset to you? 

Yes! It’s so exciting and feels like such a privilege to be being paid to write a comedy for the telly, but I’m afraid that’s as much as I can say about it at the moment - but God, it would be a dream come true if I got to make the thing I’m writing that’s set in Dorset. What a lush excuse to spend loads of gorgeous time back in my hometown. And to show it off to the world.  

I do feel like I’m bound, in my heart, to there. I grew up in Swanage and my family and lots of my dearest friends are there. I come back every four to six weeks, just to get a medicinal dose of the place. The older I get the more I’ve felt called back, especially to the sea. It took me moving away to realise how beautiful it is and how lucky I was to grow up there.

Male comedians are rarely asked about their gender, but female stand-ups are often invited to comment on ‘being a woman in comedy’, the ‘comedy sisterhood’ etc – how do you deal with that? 

Yeah, there’s still a comically wrong idea that women do comedy in some weird, different way to how men do, so there’s still explaining to do that ‘female comedy’ isn’t a genre - it’s just comedy.  

It reminds me of when a friend who’s vegan had his parents over for Christmas dinner and he cooked a mighty feast (he’s an amazing cook) but they brought their own ready meals. When he said: ‘Will you at least just have some of the broccoli, parsnips and carrots?’ his Dad said: ‘No I don’t think I’ll like vegan vegetables.’   

So, if I’m asked that these days I say I have already answered that question eight million times so look up one of those answers and ask me something new that you’d ask a ‘man comedian’ who does ‘male comedy.’ 

What has this year been like for you as a performer; how have you coped with not being able to do shows and how do you feel about returning to the stage? 

Thank you, yeah, I’ve had a crazily fun year. I have loved every minute and I’m determined to keep enjoying all these chances and fun jobs that are coming my way now.  

I am over the absolute moon to be getting back into stand up, I enjoyed a bit of time just writing and being peaceful just me and my kid but enough of that now, ha ha. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed it until I was allowed to start back up again. I’m terrified and thrilled in equal measure. Let’s have it! 

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