Bonkers but brilliant

Bonkers (Jennifer Saunders)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

April 22

Jennifer Saunders’ life has been one of little planning, hence the title of the autobiography “Bonkers” that is the focus of her sold out Brisbane event. The show, part of Brisbane Powerhouse’s Ideas series, is hosted by The Courier Mail’s Phil Brown, which works well, given the star’s preference for performing as part of a double act.

Bonkers (1)

During the conversation, Saunders reflects on her childhood, complete with a slideshow of not-so-happy snaps (so termed due to her series of serious faces), contemplation of a career as a dental nurse, her gap year in Italy, university years friendship and collaboration with Dawn French, and marriage to Adrian Edmondson (Vyvyan of “The Young Ones” fame). It appears, she is really quite self-deprecatingly normal, which is what characterises her story. It’s not about celebrity tales and name dropping (although has met Cher and Madonna), but rather friendships, family (including her joy at being a grandmother) and human failings such as chronic procrastination.

Saunders’ comic creations also feature, and there are moments when her animated huffiness at having a gap year and wonder at the appeal of Kate and Prince George, that channel Bolly-swilling Edina of “Absolutely Fabulous”. Plus, she does a fantastic Patsy impression.

Jennifer Sauders is a woman of wit, which is seen in her wonderful one-lines, particularly in response to the audience question section of the show. The evening is a laugh-out-loud exploration of her mostly happy life of friendships, family and career, but also with the reality of having to deal with cancer. And though she doesn’t delve into her experience with the big C in the same depth as in her autobiography, it is clear that her intent is to encourage people to feel less afraid of the disease.

Although the majority of Saunders’ on-stage reflections feature in the book, there is nothing like hearing then brought to life with her comic stylings. Plus there is the opportunity for post-show book signing and conversation with a woman who is, let’s face it, just a yellow dress and a baby away from being royalty. Bring on Ab Fab the movie for dentistry’s loss is definitely comedy’s gain.

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