Do not see this show if you’re looking for a full hour of laughs. Do see it if you’re looking for the most emotionally charged theatrical monologue that you’re ever likely to see. Emerging from this show into the throng of smiling faces around George Square just felt wrong, for they obviously hadn’t just witnessed Nanette.
The show’s opening 30 minutes or so are almost like a really brilliant but still standard Fringe show. Loads of laughs, albeit most of the jokes dark or uncomfortable. Her degree is in art history, so she’s the perfect person to rip it limb from limb. This felt particularly poignant after I had visited the Caravaggio exhibition earlier in the day. Every topic covered in that opening half is just as thoughtful. Knowing now how the show ends it very much has the feel of Hannah Gadsby proving that she’s damn funny.
Then it all flips in a manner that makes you feel awful for ever having laughed. The reveal is that comedians are playing characters, the stories are manufactured to gain the biggest laughs possible, hiding the pain of what really happened. Comedy is ill equipped as an art form to deal with real pain and bring catharsis and that’s why this will be her last show.
Whatever genre it falls under I’m convinced this is the best show in Edinburgh this year. The power of the tension leaves half the audience in tears and the other half close to it. I had to go stand in the car park for a few minutes after it was over just to gather myself together, before calling those closest to me to tell them about this show.
A lot of the great reviews for this show have suggested that Hannah Gadsby shouldn’t quit comedy, that this show is so good (and her back catalogue is so wonderful) that it’s completely inconceivable for her stop. I do hope that she continues to tour this piece for a long while, it’s important that as many people as possible see it. But it’s a story that’s too big to fit into one hour, or even two, maybe the next time we see her in Edinburgh it will be at the International Book Festival.
This is a show that will stay with me forever, I’m glad Hannah Gadsby decided to come back to the Fringe one last time.