At 26 years, Bec Charlwood is one of the youngest comedians performing at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival and she’s come a long way since her birth at Fannie Bay (not a euphemism, she’s quick to point out).
A quick poll of her Saturday audience revealed that few knew of her before the night (it might actually have been ‘no-one’), but I reckon that won’t be the case next year – or even by the end of the festival.
While her material in this debut show is still a bit raw and there’s plenty of room for growth, Charlwood has a natural charisma and confidence that signals huge potential for the future. She’s comfortable in her own skin too, which is a joy to see.
As with any comic, we saw her confidence grow as the audience supported her and she settled into a good rhythm of observation, including the sad lot of a family’s ‘dumb child’ (and the potential for revenge), the ups and downs of mental health, the joys of working in retail, negotiating divorced parents… and sex. Lots of sex. Only some of it protected.
To be fair, the clue is there in the title of the work: Dirty Girl. Although her mum may disagree.
While she bravely offers her own indiscretions and exploits as material and dares you to shame or pity her, there’s a strong reliance on her ability to shock to get laughs, and there’s a limit to how far you can go with that – plus, as Hannah Gadsby reflected in her classic ‘Nanette’, if you use yourself as the punchbag for too long, you’ll get sick of beating yourself up.
Charlwood has already developed a talent for working a running joke, and she plays the audience well, knowing when to stop and reflect and never losing her cool. But here lies another trap; while she skillfully covers a quiet moment with the handy trick of putting it back on the crowd for the lack of laughs (“Oh so you don’t like mental health then?”), there’s a risk that if you push it too far you’ll lose the love. And miss the chance to work out why the crowd was quiet in the first place.
But with a bit of guidance I’m pretty sure Charlwood will soon work that out.
Watch this space.
A Token Event
Venue: The Westin Hotel | 205 Collins St, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 25 March – 4 April 2021
Tickets: $20 – $25
Bookings: (03) 9245 3788 | www.comedyfestival.com.au
Suitable for audiences 18+