It’s 18 years since Fiona O’Loughlin won the best newcomer award at MICF, using her marriage and five kids as the mainstay of her comedy material.
She rode the success train for years – then it all came tumbling down: she collapsed on stage, published an autobiography, her marriage fell apart, and finally she went public with her love-hate relationship with alcohol.
Now she’s back, sober and reformed, and the promo material for Addressing the Nation suggests a new direction for her; that she may have had a Hannah-Gadsby-esque moment of revelation and decided to turned her sights away from self and seek out other subjects for her laughs.
She’s certainly less down on herself, but it seems family and the “shit on a stick” reality of small-town life is still firmly in her focus.
The difference between generations and the legacies passed between them is a theme she returns to – often prompted by notes that suggest she is still honing this new routine – and her huge, rambling, family is certainly blessed with enough eccentric figures to supply plenty of material.
Then there’s the experience of growing up in a tiny outback town in a family of “busted-arse farmers” where most of the kids in your school were siblings or cousins. O’Loughlin’s gift of storytelling – of cutting through the crap and recognising the reality of situations and people – is still her greatest skill and she has lost none of that.
She quickly sets up a relationship with the audience and the bond grows with each ripple of laughter as she shares her insights of, say, netball as a mirror of country society, the joy of swearing, the rite and rituals of Catholic church services, and the social standing of a small-town pharmacist. Even Joan of Arc gets a look in.
The acid wit has been turned down a few degrees and her judgement isn’t quite as harsh but it’s still there and super sharp when it does appear. O’Loughlin is also a master of the silent truth; the unspoken meaning behind a seemingly innocuous sentence that she leaves hanging until the audience stumbles onto the conclusion – and gasps as much as laughs.
But there are also quieter, more reflective moments, where she digs into the many things that went unspoken between past generations – the effect of “being raised racist and homophobic” and how far men have had to move in the past 30 years.
If you’ve read the promo material and were hoping for an all-out blitz on Nicole Kidman, then this show is not for you. But fans will be happy to hear that O’Loughlin’s finely tuned bullshit meter is fully charged and her aim is as true as it ever was.
Suitable for audiences aged 16+
Dancing Bear Productions
Addresses the Nation
Venue: Athenaeum Theatre | 188 Collins St, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 26 Mar – 7 April 2019
Tickets: $25 – $42