Tourist Trapped is the English-language debut of the Estonian comedian Sille-Kadri Simer. She’s already well known on the Estonian scene, both for her stand-up and her popular podcast, Tissident (a play on the Estonian words for tits and dissident).
The stage reminds me of travel presentations in the 1980s. They used to be popular events at school auditoriums and church function rooms. A well-spoken person surrounded by “native” props would click through a slide deck full of images of happy people standing in front of blurred landscapes and we’d be subjected to a lecture about their experience of the foreign country for an hour or, if we were greatly unlucky, two.
Thankfully, Sille-Kadri immediately ensures we know this isn’t your everyday holiday talk as she introduces herself as an Eastern European alcoholic who is proudly bi-sexual. She is also, she tells us, the most-hated comedian in Estonian, introduced as “that woman” at an open-mic night in Tallinn.
Her show is not simply a succession of jokes but has been written as an experience; she’s here to tell us her best travel stories. The stage is decorated with a large tree, a glass of water and a pride flag. Her outfit is a rainbow caricature of the traditional Estonian maiden.
“I’m not holding anything back,” she tells us as she embarks on the roller coaster of her youth. Starting with her first trip abroad in 2012, she drags us along as she explores drugs and sex and rock and roll. Her stories are unfiltered and raw: the drugs are bad, the sex is worse, and the music is strictly nineties.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of the media image of the perfect modern traveller sitting tranquilly on a sandy beach with her laptop reflecting the glaring sun. Travelling with Sille-Kadri is a fantastic antidote to the saccharine-sweet narrative of the digital nomad. Sex on the road, for example, is never the perfect zipless fuck: her one-night stands are awkward and funny and infused with the fear of getting pregnant. This is countered with her boyfriends’ lack of endurance for the Estonian winter as she tries to learn how to react correctly towards being abandoned without being broken up with.
Suddenly, she asks the time. The show was meant to finish ten minutes ago. Her face is bereft. “But I have one more country,” she says. The audience leans forward.
She pauses. “Should I do it anyway?” And then with a grin, she moves on to the next slide. “This is not a democracy! Let’s do it.”
The audience breaks into loud applause as she finishes a heartfelt explanation about learning to align herself with a complicated and often hostile world. Only then does she smile openly at the audience. She stands and smiles again, basking in the praise.
Sille-Kadri presents herself as not giving a shit but, over the course of the show, it becomes clear that she cares very much about what the audience thinks of her. And from the applause and the shouting, it’s clear that the audience thinks she’s pretty bad ass, despite, or perhaps because of her vulnerability as she tells all.
If you missed the show, you can catch Tourist Trapped as a part of the Tallinn Fringe on Thursday the 1st of September.