An eclectic mix of stand-up, sketch and storytelling
By Josephine Burford
Grief is a funny thing, and while we will all experience it throughout our lives, no two experiences will be the same. It is highly personal, totally individual and, in most cases, a predominantly internal process. Yet, in It’s Not Funny, Fiannah de Rue’s debut solo show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the audience is invited inside the performer’s mind to witness and share in her grief.
An eclectic mix of stand-up, sketch and storytelling, It’s Not Funny itself is de Rue’s distinctive and public method of mourning the early loss of her loss of her father. From the show’s outset, the audience are clearly told two things; firstly, this is a show about death. Fiannah’s father’s death, when she was only 21. It’s tragic, not funny, and if you have a Dad, you shouldn’t talk about it because that’s insensitive. Secondly, you are about to enter Fiannah’s brain, self-described as akin to that of a stoned 13-year-old boy. It is a world of simultaneous paranoia and wonderment, fear and naivety. This is the tone that pervades the whole performance, and while it is certainly endearing, it results in a somewhat chaotic and rambling production.
It’s Not Funny opened on Monday night to a warm and receptive audience who were treated to de Rue’s witty observations delivered with passion, excitement and a healthy dose of self-awareness. As a performer, de Rue is a joy to watch – she effortlessly puts the audience at ease and welcomes them into her charmingly awkward world. Unfortunately, the performance as a whole seemed to be missing something. Filled with self-deprecating humour and amusing stories from her childhood, de Rue’s writing lacked narrative and structure. Even more conspicuous was the fundamental absence of a discussion of death. The audience are introduced to de Rue’s grieving process with the purchasing of a coffin and organisation of the wake – there is no mention of the cause of her father’s death, how she learned of it or how this emotional upheaval has impacted her.
This is perhaps what was most frustrating about It’s Not Funny – there was almost palpable potential. In a venue that might once have been someone’s living room, with minimal technological invasion and clever writing, the opportunity for connection and emotional growth was huge. It made me wish director Hayley Tantau had pushed de Rue further into more confronting and emotional territory. Ultimately, I was left wanting more and sincerely hope that I will be able to see an updated version of this show in a few years time when with greater distance, grief is more able to be reflected upon, and the tragedy is able to be made funny.
It’s Not Funny is being performed at Tasma Terrace until 22 April. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9245 3788.