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I was back down at Assembly on George Street last night to see another Australian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby.   Adam Hills is producing Gadsby’s run at the fringe this year and gave her a shout-out in his show on Thursday night.

Gadsby is fairly new to the stand-up circuit, and it wasn’t hard to tell – the pacing was a bit bumpy and she mumbled through a few lines that might have been hard to decipher for audience members not familiar with Australian colloquialisms.

Beyond the jitters she put together a good show, focusing on her experiences growing up in an insular Tasmanian town and dealing with an unusually doctor-phobic mother while constantly getting into bizarre accidents involving bicycles, sheet glass and cricket stumps.

Kiss Me Quick I’m Full of Jubes

Hannah Gadsby

Assembly @ George Street
Until the 30th of August

Adam Hills Inflatable

Thousands of tourists are shuffling up and down the Royal Mile in shorts and rain ponchos.  It’s fringe time.

I started off my fringe by heading down to the Assembly venue on George Street to see the first night of Adam Hills’ new show Inflatable.  I’ve mentioned Hills here before.  He’s a fantastic comedian who manages to be both consistently amusing and non-offensive.  I must admit I’ve never actually seen stand-up live before, but I’ve seen enough on television to know that a huge amount of it tends to be rather crap.

The only thing more depressing than bad stand-up comedy is watching an audience chortle away (out of a sense of obligation, one can hope) while some poorly groomed gentleman in his late thirties rants about why he dislikes his uptight partner, can’t operate a parking meter or thinks Welsh people sound stupid.

Adam Hills isn’t like that.  The first night of Inflatable started with an impromptu re-enactment of Flashdance with a bottle of IRN BRU and a jolly IT consultant from the front row.  I won’t say too much about it – I imagine in-depth reviews don’t add much to stand-up – but the show is definitely worth seeing.

Inflatable
Adam Hills

Assembly @ George Street Assembly Rooms.
Until the 31st of August.

I recently took a trip back to Australia, my sunny homeland, to spend some time with my family (and avoid writing my dissertation).

It’s a long flight.  Three flights actually, plus bad transfers.  Thirty one and a half hours from door to door.

Drifting through Heathrow I noticed the jolly security officer manning the x-ray device take a defibrillator medical card off the man directly in front of me.  The officer suddenly bashed his chest wildly like a one-armed Tarzan.

“We’ve got a ticker!” He hollered, smiling in the direction of  his colleagues behind the metal detectors. Pointing the man towards a little grey gate to the side of the machines.

I laughed only to see the man smiling at me.  “Let’s get those dancing shoes off, missy.”

I handed him my scuffed trainers and he shoved them in a plastic tray.  The shoes and I made it home eventually.

While in Sydney I went to a performance of Elling at the STC.  A play based on an Oscar nominated Norwegian film of the same name (2001), Elling deals with the lives of two men living together in Oslo away from institutional care for the first time.  The film was adapted into a play by Simon Bent in London in 2007, and well received at Bush Theatre, transferring then to the Trafalgar Studios in the west end.

It must be difficult to make a film (or write a play) about mental illness, particularly when aiming for broad humour.  I haven’t seen the film, but I hope it’s a bit more sensitive than the unstable slapstick of the stage production.

The problem with Elling is that the jokes do not hinge on the way that these characters are treated by people in the world, but rather depend on people laughing at mentally unstable people behaving abnormally.  That isn’t a particularly sophisticated type of humour.

There were a two great short sketches of bad poetry readings nicely performed, but otherwise  the funniest part of the whole piece was a brief burst of diegetic music between scenes; Norway’s Eurovision winning ‘I’m in love with a fairytale’.  But I probably found my friend Anna’s instant hysterics on hearing it more amusing than the actual musical interjection.

Australian comedian Adam Hills had a column on the BBC’s online disability resource ‘Ouch!’ where he discusses various aspects of living with a disability – including this great article on clearing security in the US after 9/11 with a prosthetic leg.  In his articles he makes the case for the place of humour when talking about disability, not because there is anything non-intentionally funny about disabled people, but because often the world is organised in a way that makes everyday things a little absurd for the disabled.

That’s why I particularly liked the gruff man on security at Heathrow.  He seemed to understand the absurdity of a safety system that isn’t very well suited to people partly made of metal.

Elling
Adapted by Simon Bent from a film by Petter Næss

Sydney Theatre Company
15/06/09

P.S.  I am very sad to be missing the new production of Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire in December. Cate Blanchett as Blanche.  I can’t imagine it being anything but fantastic.

June 2017
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