Comedy review: Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: She pulls you in gently at first with some idiosyncratic crowd work and chat about the eponymous Nanette.

Picture: Ian Georgeson
Picture: Ian Georgeson

Assembly George Square Studios (Venue 17)

****

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You know this is going somewhere dark as soon as the words “drink some jizz” are spoken. This is not the Hannah Gadsby we know. Turns out we didn’t know Hannah Gadsby at all.

I have never been particularly sympathetic to the “tears of a clown”, but this show, her valediction to comedy, she tells us, is a roar of howling rage and it is awesome. Brendon Burns’s 2007 show is the only other that has left me feeling so much part of the problem.

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Of course there is comedy. Hannah is exceptionally good at comedy. Comedy has been her shell for years. Comedy has been her gift to us, relieving tension about terrible things by offering us a get out of jail free card in the form of a laugh. And she is not going to do it any more. She is too angry for comedy. Anger is new to Hannah. But, it has to be said, she is embracing it like a pro. She has a lifetime of things to be angry about and now she has found her anger she, for one last time, is kind enough to wrap it in beautiful, powerful and even funny words so we can try to understand it.

As an art historian, Hannah understands the power of the story, and of where we place the focus in the story, and by the end, so do we. When you understand Hannah’s story you understand why she is walking away from comedy.

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Her words are beautiful and awful when she speaks of “soaking children in shame”, when she talks about her mum and when she charts her own path to discovering anger in a London hotel room.

You have always mattered, Hannah. Sorry we weren’t a bit better.

Until 27 August. Today 5:30pm.