I have seen Gadsby onstage twice before and in her own words “The idea is to take a tale of woe from my own life and create a joke out of it”.
Well that premise still holds but the jokes were far fewer as she delved deeply into her childhood and finally coming out as a lesbian. As a young woman Gadsby described telling her mother, a strict disciplinarian, “I was scared of you”, her mother’s response; “Well I hated you!” It got a laugh, we were hopeful it was a tongue in cheek remark. Not entirely sure though!
Due to a slight overrun on time by Claire Cooper’s earlier show we missed the opening minutes of the Gadsby introduction. A fellow audience member was kind enough to tell us the name of the show, Nanette, was drawn from a chalkboard on a roadside café on route to Geraldton. The quote was Your barista today is Nanette. “Although we did not exchange a single word or even a glance, Nanette has changed my life. She hasn’t at all, but she did prompt me to think about some things and those things I thought have become this show”.
This is a deeply introspective journey from Gadsby’s largely unhappy family, through school bullying, feelings of deep confusion, loneliness and depression touching on her slightly happier time completing a degree in Art History. Her early interest in female anatomy lead her to the art books in the school library; a virtual porn collection by artists ancient and new.
Hailing from a small town in North West Tasmania, the country also known as Bigots Island according to Gadsby. Her school sports teams were all named after famous shipwrecks, another cheerful crack at Tassie’ negative outlook on life.
There were scathing references to the upcoming gay marriage plebiscite.
Gadsby never revealed her sexuality to her much loved grandmother “It would have been too much to comprehend at her age.” But questioned on marriage her “Grandmother’s comment was “Well you know Mr Right might be just around the corner!’ Gadsby: “I’ve been approaching corners with caution ever since!”
Some fireworks erupted when Gadsby launched into a piece on the greatest modern artists of the last century. A comment “That an artist must suffer for his work” riled her to address his mental instability, addiction to digitalis, cut off his ear and shot himself in the chest. Was the much vaunted Sunflowers really worth Van Goth’s utter misery?
Gadsby then lightened up proceedings with some instances of her being greeted in shops with “Good Morning Sir, what can I help you with?” Only to enjoy the panorama of embarrassment moving in waves over the assistant’s face as he realised his error. A brilliant mime covered his apology with gestures to the cropped hair, smart suit and tie and ending with a despairing shrug and hand waggle.
Then Gadsby touched on the “Greatest Modernist of All Time” and revealed he seduced his underage model when he was 47 and she a mere 18. A male audience member had the temerity to call out “What year was this?’ and Gadsby let fly. Picasso was a misogynist, he hated women. Why did it matter what the year was?
Because the heckler wanted to know how things had changed. Gadsby’s answer was that they hadn’t changed. Was it ok to take home a bargirl and kill her (Phil Spectre)? Was keeping the blue dress with the incriminating stains ok (President Clinton)? Was using celebrity combined with illegal drugs in order to inflict rape (Bill Cosby)? Here I must state Gadby never named names, these were my interpretations of the circumstances listed.
Would you rather have a leader who is moved to tears occasionally or an internationally powerful warmongering bigot? Gadby calmed herself down and apologized for going over the top. She closed with a story that showed how much her mother had changed from her initial reaction about being a lesbian – “I don’t want to know!” To her grandmother’s wake, where a local said, in her mother’s hearing, to Gadsby “Why don’t you just go back to the mainland?” Mrs Gadsby loudly rejoined “Why don’t you just go back to China? Stunned silence remained, then he muttered “But I’m not from China”.
A neat underlining of an earlier observation of how much more her mother’s generation had had to deal with change than even Gadsby’s own.
Token Events presents
Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre | State Theatre Centre of WA, 174 William St Perth, WA
Dates: 27 – 31 January 2017