5 April 2017
Melbourne Town Hall
to 23 April
It's been strange not writing a lot this festival. Working is good, sleeping is good and not getting festival flu is a bonus. But even though tweets are terrific and Age reviews are cool for sharing the love and getting some thoughts into the world, there are so many shows that deserve more than a star rating or a quotable.
So I've been having more in-person conversations this year. Remember when IRL was a thing? I've been giving it a go. Sure, it stops me sitting at my computer in my undies eating toast and telling the cat that she's beautiful, but maybe there's a plus side to that.
For one thing, it takes away the sarcasm and anger filter of the internet and lets me have conversations with people I like.
The show I've heard talked about, and talked about, the most – every day – this comedy festival is Hannah Gadsby's Nanette.
I have said stuff about about Hannah before but this year she's making us talk to each other – about things that matter.
The word "genius" is being thrown around a lot. But fuck that. Genius implies that it's somehow easy to create and perform; that it doesn't take countless hours to get one minute right; that it doesn't hurt to create work like this.
Nanette broke me.
Broke me in ways that make me want it to tour for years so that the world can see it, but more in ways that make me want it to never have to be performed again.
As a piece of writing, it pulls stand-up comedy to shreds.
Hannah does stand-up. She understands the power of laughter and how it can connect and liberate us.
And how it can hurt and break us.
Think of a time when someone made fun of you and laughed at you. Does it still hurt?
She exposes the innate creepiness about being in a room laughing at people or letting people laugh at you – and the comfort we find in that laughter.
By discussing how to create and break tension, she's steps ahead of her audience. The build from the gently annoying powdered-coffee barista Nanette to Hannah's mum's story coming full circle to tension that can't be broken is so structurally powerful that the only thing that stopped my writer brain from orgasming was every emotion trying to cope.
With her 'trademark' self-deprecating humour (writers, don't use those words), Hannah invites people to laugh at her, and Nanette questions the nature of doing this. Laughter can be so connecting and loving, but what's the cost?
She talks about understanding the power of shame, especially childhood shame. How it can be stronger than our own understanding and how it fights love without us noticing.
Her bigger story is about living in a society that lets people tells us that the Safe Schools program is indoctrination; how we are surrounded by grown up humans who support the shaming of children.
And how women are still shamed for thinking and speaking and simply being, let alone for being their authentic selves. She tells a short story about her being perceived as a straight white man and the change in attitude when that perception changed. The payoff was a perfect observational joke, but it comes from truth that sucks.
No wonder we filter our connections to the world with sarcasm and anger.
Hannah's story is so personal that it's not my place to share it, but by being so personal she lets everyone find the personal connection that's usually lost when a story is made safe for everyone.
Reviewers are often dismissed for being personal. I've heard that I'm an ignorant cunt for writing about something as bland as looking for a female point of view on the stage. (I don't read comments after a "she had her period" was LIKED by people who had asked me to write about them.) Last year, a festival artist told her audience how she didn't like my 4.5 star review because I mentioned how old I was. "It's all about the reviewer," she said. And still used my quotable.
And I'll be told that I'm wrong for not being distanced and objective about Nanette.
This show made me feel – some feelings that I didn't want to have and some that are brilliant. It made me see my world through different eyes. It made me see myself differently.
Another new show has been announced for 29 April at the Comedy Theatre. Tickets go on sale on Monday at Ticketmaster.