04 April 2010

Guest Review: I Coulda Been A Sailor

I Coulda Been a Sailor
Nelly Thomas
1 April 2010
Melbourne Town Hall

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

If things had been slightly different, Nelly Thomas could have been a sailor. Or a manager of a fast-food chicken franchise. Or a BMX champion... Like all of us, Thomas has had many roles in life, with many roads and options that she did and didn’t take. I Coulda Been A Sailor is essentially an onstage biography that will connect with anyone who ever wondered where they were going in life.
Thomas has a warm, engaging delivery that feels like chatting with a friend. Her life story becomes fascinating through her skill in connecting to the audience and her deft turn of phrase. I Coulda Been A Sailor also incorporates an effective theatrical device in the re-enactment of certain moments with award-winning performer Kate McLennan (Debutante Diaries, Beaconsfield: The Musical, Dogstar). Incidentally, McLennan is already on stage when the audience enters and I’m sure I’m not the only one who assumed I was in the wrong room.
It’s been great to see so many comedians really working on their shows this year, rather than the “good enough” approach of previous years (the attitude that says “I’ve got a title and 15 minutes of on-subject material, the rest I’ll fill with recent stand-up and Lara Bingle jokes”. Sadly, we do still see a fair bit of this, which is both lazy and contemptuous of the audience).  Thomas has obviously spent a lot of time honing this show – there are no dead patches or extraneous material and the show is fluid and tightly paced.
Comedy is often about recognition, so I should point out that my childhood was alarmingly similar to Thomas – we both grew up in small country towns in WA, and Thomas’s observation that in 17 years she never once saw anyone go in or out of the local library rang true to me. And for the more Mediawatch-minded I should also disclose that Nelly Thomas and I are both alternate hosts of the Boxcutters podcast, although this was only the second time we’d ever been in the same room.
Nelly Thomas is rehearsed, confident, and extremely funny. I Coulda Been A Sailor will make you consider all the choices you’ve made in your own life and hopefully – like Thomas – you’ll come out happy with where you are.
 Nelly Thomas coulda been a sailor. Luckily for us she became a comedian. See this show.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

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