There are a ton of shows on this year’s Edinburgh Fringe featuring comics diligently ploughing the storytelling, sincerity and self-disclosure furrow, but Hannah Gadsby’s raw, intelligent and very funny Nannette blows all of them out of the water.
Gadsby describes what comedians do as carefully and stealthily building tension, then – when the moment’s juuust right – releasing it. One of the main reasons why Nanette’s astoundingly good is because she’s phenomenal at this. During her set, there are times when the room’s silent, everyone’s eyes are locked on her and it feels like the entire audience is holding its breath.
Society loves labels, and the ones it’s slapped on the softly spoken Australian stand-up, are fat, gay, female and Not Properly Feminine. So they’re the filters through which the world sees her. They also determine: how she’s treated, the space she’s allowed to take up and the stories she’s supposed to tell.
This is what Nanette’s all about – identity, difference, belonging, isolation and the power of stories. That makes it sound like a sociology dissertation, but it’s so far away from being preachy, dull or chin-stroky. Although it’s shocking, powerful and issues several punches to the gut, it somehow manages to be hugely entertaining too.
Probably because the way Gadsby communicates what she wants to get across isn’t clumsy or heavy-handed. And, unlike many, she deftly steers clear of easy laughs and keeps the narrative-to-brilliant-joke ratio pleasingly high.
As well as being brutally honest and skillfully filleting humour from the pain and trauma she’s experienced, Gadsby’s gentle, disarming and often flashes a cheeky grin.
Her writing’s tight and energetic and her hour’s solidly structured, so she effortlessly glides from one subject to the next.
At a couple of points during the show, Gadsby says her stand-up days are over and briefly explains why. That means Nanette is her comedy swansong. She’s tremendously talented, and I’d love to see more of her, so I’m (selfishly) hoping it isn’t.
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette is at the Assembly George Square Studios until 27th August. For times, tickets and more information click here!