Review | Hannah Gadsby totally deconstructs comedy with Nanette

Nanette | Heath Ledger Theatre | 27th-28th Jan | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

It’s not often that an audience sitting in a half-stunned silence is the mark of a good comedy show. No one coughs. No one even shifts their feet. Most importantly, no one laughs. When I spoke to Hannah Gadsby last week about her comedy show Nanette, she told me “it’s not your average comedy show.” I didn’t imagine how true that was.

Part side-aching hilarity, part sobering rhetoric which verges on slam poetry, Hannah has managed to entirely deconstruct stand up comedy.

The stage is typical. Some lights, a single microphone, stool with a glass of water. When Hannah walks on stage you could mistake her for a stage hand. But as soon as she steps to the microphone, she has us in stitches.

From dyke body diversity to wilderness porn tableaux, she is able to artfully (and quietly) guide an audience through tension and punchlines. It’s about the second set that cracks begin to show. Before long, she starts taking a mallet to the wall and pulling bricks out. Comedy, she tells us, is the building of tension to break it all down with a punchline. And she’s sick of the punchline.

The show is a work of passion, no doubt about it. You can just about feel the weight of her career leading to this point, coiled up with a decade of tension that, in this swansong, is released. Brutal but forgiving, she is conscious in her absolute control over the crowd and determined to be more than the angry lesbian screaming feminism into a void.

Perhaps my only issue was that she was definitely preaching to the choir. Looking around I saw the audience was mostly women, many who seemed to be queer in some capacity, and whilst some of the stories she told were hauntingly familiar they would have more of an impact on the people she’s addressing. That being said, the nuance of idea’s she dealt with went far beyond what you would see in even some informed discussions.

Yeah, I never thought I’d right a line like that in a comedy show review. So definitely not normal.

My recommendation is this: Nanette is a must see. It’s hilarious and entertaining, but also deals with incredibly heavy themes and you don’t get off lightly as an audience. Plan time to go somewhere quiet afterwards for dinner and to cope with the existential void. Well, at least that’s what worked for me.

Nanette is being performed for the last time in Australia tonight. Get tickets at Fringe World.

Annique Cockerill


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