Edinburgh Fringe Review: Hannah Gadsby, Assembly George Square

Update 23/8: As was widely expected, Hannah Gadsby was nominated for a lastminute.com Edinburgh Comedy Award today. She has already won a Barry Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year. Will there be another trophy to go in the cabinet before she quits comedy as she plans to do? A version of this review first appeared in the London Evening Standard on August 7 here.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival launched with more than 1,200 comedies competing for audience pocket money. Hannah Gadsby has a unique selling point. She says that after this show, entitled Nanette, she is quitting comedy. In that case she is going out on a high.

Some may argue, however, that the Tasmanian stand-up, who recently won the Barry Award at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, actually quits comedy during her set. The autobiographical monologue is initially delivered in chatty, anecdotal style before a  gulp-inducing gear change, this deceptively tough cookie getting seriously angry about men controlling narratives and women being treated as victims.

Most of the pithy asides come in the first half. “You gotta laugh … not of late,” she chuckles, acutely aware that this is not typical Live at the Apollo material. Instead she confronts shame, homophobia and misogyny, drawing on references from classical art to her own life, dropping breathtaking bombshells en route.

If stand-up was purely about laughs Nanette might be one to sidestep. But Gadsby employs her formidable performance skills to visit very challenging, provocative places. It is not easy listening, particularly for men, but it definitely makes its mark.

Hannah Gadsby is at Assembly George Square until August 27. Tickets here.

Read more Edinburgh reviews here.


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