‘I owe you one’: Hannah Gadsby opens up her heart in feel-good show

Body of Work – Hannah Gadsby
Sydney Opera House, December 9


People, says Hannah Gadsby, don’t need any more opinions. The world is swimming in high-profile opinions, opinions built, often, without a jot of expertise on the topic.

As Gadsby says at the top of her new show, Body of Work, “I’ve got other things to talk about.“

Hannah Gadsby is touring a new live show, Body of Work.

This, she says, is a feel-good show – “I feel like I owe you one” – less philosophical than previous works, including Nanette, the blisteringly honest and soul-baring work she first presented in 2017 that transformed live comedy, found a global audience on Netflix and won Gadsby an Emmy and a Peabody Award.

Support act Zoe Coombs Marr begins the night, pondering lockdown’s effect on her relationship, the different parenting styles of her and her partner for their rescue dog and the hideous nature of kombucha in a dexterous take on commercialism’s flirt with hippie fungus-based drinks.

Then to a vast wave of cheering Gadsby takes to the stage. Her intent, she says, is to tell stories that make people happy. And this is a love story.

She’s married now, to her producer, Jenny Shamash, which took the pair into the “steep learning curve” of the gargantuan, often absurd wedding industry, the reverse-engineered spontaneity that surrounds the norms of proposing and what a bad knee does to pre-engagement kneeling.

Body of Work is stories about her spouse-lady, about her mum and dad, about these two parts of her life meeting and Gadsby watching this evolve. It stretches back to a long-ago relationship she tried to end which, bafflingly, kept going and culminates in a vivid tale of a late-night drive halted by a dead rabbit. And it focuses forward to life with Shamash, seeing herself and Australia through her wife’s eyes.

Gadsby has always been masterful at telling stories, to any audience, tiny or vast, homegrown or global. There is a pause in tonight’s show where Gadsby, feeling a hot flash of perimenopausal heat, explains what’s going on, collects her thoughts and goes on. That is life.

What’s striking about Body of Work is that it is just as personal as Nanette, or indeed, any of her previous shows. Gadsby’s ability to open up her heart, to frame her view of the absurdities, the brilliantly luminous illogicalities of life, family and being in love, connect with us just as vividly.

Until Sunday

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