Hannah Gadsby: Mrs Chuckles

Wednesday, 17 August, 2011

Gilded Balloon Billiard Room – Edinburgh

This is a one woman standup act and, unfortunately, it isn’t funny.  It’s a shame because, as Dinah, the audience member who became the focus of most of Hannah Gadsby’s act pointed out, she’s probably a ‘very warm person.’

Her act begins painfully slowly.  She hands out biscuits while commenting mirthlessly on her own girth.  The material, what there is of it, is delivered slowly and with a nervous hesitance which manifests itself as belligerent bitterness.  She makes tea for herself, and Dinah, a hopeless ice-breaking gesture, and begins by talking about her home town.  Tasmania is a small town we learn.   This means Hannah didn’t meet her first stranger until she was seven.  She stared Ashley/Wayne Pollops down unable to handle this social situation.  All this information is supposed to be funny.

Hannah Gadsby’s tag for the show is ‘first impressions and final words.’  She talks about how she used to make friends at primary school.  Her impressions of Donald Duck are very good and her ability to make a farting noise in the back of her throat is also rather bizarre.  But this is not a freak show and her audience are not under thirteen so these acts do not receive any laughs.  As she admits and seems to be proud of, her first impression has not been good. Furthermore, when she moves on to ‘last words’  her comments on the seven year old girl who died flying a plane and whose last words were ‘can you hear the rain?’ make one want to scream at Hannah Gadsby, ‘can you hear the silence of your upset punters, busy checking their tickets to see if a refund is possible?’

Two of her audience of strangers walk out after ten minutes. With the air of someone glad to be rid of a sixth of her patrons, Hannah Gadsby continues.  We get an insight into lesbian dating. There are a few humorous observations.  ‘If I don’t speak in a social situation I assume I wasn’t there—it’s like the tree in the forest.’  It is a witty observation.  A crush on a girl comes back to haunt Hannah Gadsby when it turns out years later the girl is into bondage, a conversation through which Hannah can only blurt out ‘I like Meryl Streep.’  These moments border on funny, but nothing is ‘laugh-out-loud.’

There is a poignant moment too as Hannah Gadsby recalls her school reunion.  A boy she went to school with is in prison for murdering his alleged gay lover with a Tomahawk and her old school friends are angry at his sexuality.  This is a touching story told reasonably well, but it is also not a happy story and the punch-line is to be expected.

Hannah Gadsby could be funny, she is engaging in an awkward way and has a comical persona.  She needs better material and more of it and to deliver it faster.  She has potential, but as it stands this show fails to entertain.

Cast: Hannah Gadsby
Writer: Hannah Gadsby
Company: Producer – EdCom and Dick the Horse Productions, Technical Operator –

Review August 12th, Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh

(c) Rebecca Gibson 2011

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