May 4, 2016 Theatre
Alice Fraser came out onstage the night I went and did a peculiar thing before she started the show. She apologised for it. She said she suspected some of us might not know whether to laugh, because it was a comedy but it also wasn’t a comedy. I’m not sure why she did that. We weren’t there randomly – we’d already chosen to see a comedy show based on the death of the comedian’s mother. We expected it to confound us, make us laugh and maybe make us cry too. Who apologises? Is that an Australian thing?
Then she got into it, and the show was great. Fraser’s mother had MS, from before Fraser was born, so she only ever knew her as a sick person. A sick person, that is, who lived a very vibrant, creative life. One of the best things about Savage is that it really makes you wish you’d met the Mum. No finer tribute.
Savage has got one of the most extraordinarily risky jokes I’ve ever heard onstage, and it works.
Fraser herself has been a lawyer but she threw that over to become a comedian, and then, four days before she was due to open a show, which she didn’t have remotely ready, her mother died. So she turned it into a show about that, and has kept doing it ever since. It’s bloody funny. It’s got one of the most extraordinarily risky jokes I’ve ever heard onstage, and it works – and that joke has nothing to do with swearing or body parts or offending social groups or anything like that.
Yes, it’s also sad, sometimes searingly so. Fraser’s subject, at heart, is the gap we all experience between what is and what we need the world to be in order to feel complete in it. It’s difficult to grasp and she doesn’t pretend she has succeeded. The show, at heart, is about how she can’t really work out what she is supposed to do.
Is she vulnerable? You bet. Is she determined? Oh yes. She delivers so many hilarious put downs, usually of men but also of silly “creative arts” activities, asinine religious thinking and so much more, and she bounces from them to the uncomfortable confusion of simply being alive. She’s in a kind of limbo, hovering between kick-arse confidence and doubt-filled hesitation. She even flirts with the temptations of self-pity, but doesn’t succumb. It’s incredible to be able to do all that, and make it funny, and make it ring true.
Savage, until May 15, Basement Theatre. Book tickets.