31 March 2010

Guest Reviewer: The Cliff Young Shuffle

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL 2010
The Cliff Young Shuffle
Hannah Gadsby
28 April 2010
Melbourne Town Hall

Guest Reviewer John Richards (from Boxcutters and The Outland Institute)


Hannah Gadsby is an excellent performer. She’s funny, she’s warm and she generates an easy rapport with her audience. It’s only been a few short years since she won the Raw Comedy final and yet she has a presence and certainty on stage that makes her seem like a seasoned veteran. There’s no doubt she’s a real talent.
So I’m almost embarrassed to say I just couldn’t get into her new show, The Cliff Young Shuffle. While her delivery was impeccable and I laughed at many of the well crafted jokes, I just couldn’t find interest in the subject matter.

The Cliff Young Shuffle is about Gadsby’s attempt to walk across England (not the widest bit, she admits, but not the narrowest bit either. It’s presumably the walk from St Bees to Robin’s Hood Bay although the show is rather light on specifics). It’s the story of how someone with no interest in exercise (“I like sitting”) coped with this sudden exertion, and her decision to go off anti-depressants at the same time.

I love “quest” stories, but generally I tend to favour the huge and inherently meaningless (Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure, Tony Hawks’ Round Ireland With A Fridge) or the small and very personal (Lawrence Leung trying to find his first crush in The Marvellous Misadventures of Puzzle Boy, or Danny Wallace getting the old gang back together in Friends Like These). Gadsby’s story seemed too mundane for the former and not meaningful enough for the latter, and I found myself hoping we would both soon finish this journey. The fact that Gadsby herself kept repeating how pointless the trip was – and the lack of any dramatic impact in its conclusion – probably didn’t help.

I stress, however, that I was well in the minority. The capacity audience– as well as the friends I was with – all greatly enjoyed it, and many of them connected to specific moments in the show. Those with any experience of hiking or depression will get something out of this, even if it’s only the recognition factor. Otherwise, make sure you see Gadsby at a comedy night soon.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

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