28 October 2010

Guest Review: Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher

Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher
The William May Corporation
24 October 2010
Atheneum
carriefisher.com

Review by Josephine Giles


Tell your friends you have seen Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking and chances are they will want to know about the piles of cocaine that reputedly dotted the Star Wars trilogy sets. But Fisher, who will forever be defined by her portrayal of Princess Leia in those block-buster movies, offers much more in this show than a string of sordid anecdotes of celebrity drug abuse.

By the end of Wishful Drinking you will probably not know a lot more detail about the life your new besty Carrie than you have read in the tabloids or seen on talk shows.  We all know she was born of Hollywood royalty Debby Reynolds and Eddy Fisher; that she struggled with addictions to various substances after her early stardom in the Star Wars movies; that she was in a tumultuous relationship with, then married, then divorced the singer-songwriter Paul Simon; that she wrote a number of bestselling novels - one of which, Postcards From The Edge was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Shirley Maclaine; and that she has become somewhat of a pin-up girl for bi-polar disorder, the illness she has wrestled with for many years, but that has provided the fodder for some of her best writing.

What you will come away with, however, is an appreciation of Carrie’s significant talent as an actress and writer as she fleshes out the above in a highly entertaining oral memoir / slide night.  Arriving on stage singing “Happy Days Are Here Again”, tossing glitter into the audience, Carrie kicks off her shoes and settles into her cosy lounge room of a set which is dominated by a centrally placed large screen.   Demonstrating skills borrowed from the best stand-ups, she establishes an early intimacy with her audience with a hilarious question and answer session about sudden death and she soon has us well and truly warmed upped. 

Once it’s established that we’re all best friends, Carrie, with the assistance of projections, leads us through the story of her life, loves and illness.  From her statement “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable”, we learn that Carrie has not just the capacity, but the necessity to laugh at her life. So for all the considerable wit with numerous LOL moments - plus the pleasure of being entertained by someone we have all known for so long - we end up with admiration for Carrie’s capacity to endure, and create some sort of sense out of, a chaotic life lived out under the spotlight.

Carrie’s delivery is conversational and seemingly off the cuff, but this is merely evidence of her understated virtuosity. This is a tightly scripted show, polished through productions across America since 2006. The recipient of various awards for solo performance, Wishful Drinking is the work of a gifted storyteller.

At one point Fisher describes her show as narcissistic and audience pleasing, which it is, but I hate to think of where our entertainment industry would be if that description were grounds for disqualification. Carrie Fisher’s intense self-awareness adds a depth to the traditional comedic style of self-deprecation, and her intelligence and warmth shine and engage. 

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

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