Photos - Joan Marcus
From insightful one-liners like “There’s no room for demons when you are self-possessed”, to hilarious references to her “anatomically correct galaxy snatch”, Carrie Fisher is on fire from the moment she peers out from under a rising a curtain in slippered feet.
It’s hard to imagine anyone not liking Wishful Drinking. Or Fisher herself. The show is scripted to near perfection, free of any trite segues, and Fisher is disarmingly honest, acerbically witty, and blessed with impeccable comic timing. The who’s who of Melbourne’s entertainment set made their approval perfectly clear on Saturday night with a sold-out show and standing ovation. Despite some famous faces in the crowd, there was no missing the dazzle of the real star of the evening.
You often hear of the triple threat – singer/actor/dancer – well, Fisher has a fourth talent: writer. Her deeply funny comedic lines are wrapped around courageous confessions with a seamlessness that makes for a razor sharp show. Indeed, Fisher is an award-winning author, winning a Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel for her 1987 semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge (which she then adapted as a screenplay for the 1990 film).
Wishful Drinking is much more complex than a memoirist’s recollections with some funny Star Wars in-jokes thrown in (although the real reason why George Lucas wouldn’t let her wear a bra is very, very funny). Fisher creates a window into something most of us will never see nor experience. She cleverly and ingenuously creates an amazingly accessible narrative around a life that is incredibly absurd.
“I was born in Burbank California to simple folk, people of the land” says a straight-faced Fisher, daughter of Hollywood heavyweights Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. She then launches into a ‘Hollywood Inbreeding 101’ lecture that details her ridiculously fah-bulous ‘family’ tree, a tree that includes the likes of Paul Simon, Connie Stevens, and Elizabeth Taylor. Fisher’s father famously (and scandalously) left Reynolds for Taylor in 1960: “My father flew to Elizabeth’s side [after hearing of the death of her husband], eventually making his way to her front… ultimately consol[ing] her with his penis.”
The end of the First Act is devoted to Star Wars, and you can almost hear the inner squeals of fans in the audience when the lights dim and the large screen at the back of the stage is set alight with a galaxy from far, far away. “Thing is, as you age, it’s all about dignity” a straight-faced Fisher announces as the lights come up on her croissant head ‘do’ and the hysteria of the crowd amps up a notch. “Forty-three years ago George Lucas ruined my life” remarks Fisher, before revealing a range of Princess Leia merchandise, including PEZ dispenser. Star Wars fan or not, this part of the show is a lot of fun. There is no easy exploitation of nostalgia here, just quirky irreverence for a subject so full of comic potential.
Act Two covers a lot of ground. Dark, uneven ground, littered with mental institutions and drug abuse. The capacity crowd, dead silent, held its breath as Fisher recounted experiences of electric shock therapy and drying out. And still there is this devilishly dry humour that infuses everything that comes out of her mouth. A diagnosed manic-depressive, Fisher announces she should organise the first Bipolar Pride Day (she also has a “superpower that enables her to turn people gay”): “The depressives can ride on the floats so they don’t have to leave their beds and the manics can be in the marching bands, laughing and dancing and fucking.” Fisher talks about having waited all her life to win an award for writing or acting and now getting them all the time for being mentally ill.
Fisher’s anecdotes about her relationship with Paul Simon also had the crowd enthralled, particularly when she played parts of songs written about her and her “cold coffee eyes”. The genius of Simon when writing of his muse is unmistakable.
Through all of this, what’s clearly evident is that Carrie Fisher knows who she is, where she’s been and how she is perceived. It slowly dawns on you after the show that she hasn’t really told you everything, in fact she’s told you only the bare bones of her story. Yet, while you were under her spell, you felt as if you were somehow a part of her crazy life, such is her gift of storytelling, the humility of her candour and the wit of her humour.
If you need to follow Wishful Drinking to another state, far far away, in order to see it, do it. You’ll like it. A lot.
2010 Tour Dates
Sydney - State Theatre (Oct 19-20)
Melbourne - The Athenaeum Theatre (Oct 22-30)
Canberra - Canberra Theatre (Nov 4-5)
Adelaide - Her Majesty’s Theatre (Nov 10-11)
Perth - Regal Theatre (Nov 15-16)