Soul legend love

At Last: The Etta James Story

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

June 27 – 30

Band 2.JPG

Etta James’ sassy soul anthem ‘Tell Mama’ may reassure listeners to ‘tell mamma about it’, but when Vika Bull begins Act One of the smash hit show “At Last: The Etta James Story” with the funky, high-spirited number, it is the audience who has desire to hear more.

Bull’s love for James is clear and immediately her dynamic vocals compel as she invests her heart and soul into this unforgettable show, in celebration of the soul legend’s life, work and voice that in Keith Richards’ words, “could take you to hell or take you to heaven”. Over the course of two hours, Vika is joined on stage by some of Australia’s finest musicians to tell the turbulent but remarkable story of the artist formerly known as Jamesetta Hawkins, including her tumultuous youth and time as Chess Records first major female star and periods of petty crime, drug addiction, poverty and psychiatric hospitalisation on the road to becoming a six-time Grammy Award winning music icon with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, who continues to inspire artists’ today.

The narrative concert careers us through the jazz and blues singer’s chaotic life and 30 albums, as it nestles narration between some of her most beloved songs, in show of how her music transcends genres. It is a story set to history and it is wonderful to hear this reflected in the soundtrack’s different styles as it takes us from to doo-wop of James’ first, 1954, R&B hit ‘Roll with Me, Henry’ (re-titled ‘The Wallflower’ when Modern Records decided the original title was too explicit) through to the sounds of ‘70s soul funk in ‘Out on the Streets Again’.

Vika Bull is absolutely sensational. Her force-of-nature voice is ideal for recreation of James’ distinctive sound. She sings every number fiercely and with her entire body, soaring her guteral vocals to the rafters. And while ‘In the Basement’ best suits her sound, her vocal versatility means that her rawness and emotional expression enlivens snappy jazz and raunchy blues numbers alike, luring audiences in love songs and laid-back, slow-burn ballads.

Act Two’s ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ is goosebumpily good. Bull’s moving expression of the sad song about the one you want wanting someone else, is passionate and heartfelt. And her smoky ‘Fool that I Am’ and sorrowful ‘I Want a Sunday Kind of Love’ are likewise beautiful. And there is, of course, James’ sultry signature song and popular wedding number, the titular ‘At Last’ from her 1960 debut album. In Bull’s hands the immortal song is appropriately poignant in its vulnerability. She also sizzles through ‘I Just Wanna Make Love to You, and uses her high-octane vocals to take ‘W.O.M.A.N’ and James Brown’s ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ to fantastic, feisty places.

Bull is a generous performer who personally gives her all, yet still celebrates the musicianship of those on stage along with her, members of the seven-piece ensemble, The Essential R&B Band, led by John McAll. And while collectively they are excellent, particularly in their add of big band sound to Act One’s closer, ‘Sugar on the Floor’, it is marvellous that band members are all given their respective moments to shine. ‘Tough Lover’, features an impressive trumpet solo by fellow narrator Tibor Gyapjas and Anton Deleca adds saxophone swing to ‘Good Rockin’ Daddy’. On piano, McCall attaches an upbeat feel to make ‘Lovesick Blues’ all the more invigorating and Act Two opens with an impressive guitar solo from Dion Hirini, leading the audience into the raw and earthy ‘Come to Mama’.

“At Last: The Etta James Story” is a slick show, as one would expect from a production that has already experienced such national and international success; yet it never feels like performers are going through the motions. Indeed, its energy is infectious, especially in showcase of the cross-selection of James’ various styles. The songs sizzle compared to the in-between narration, especially thanks to Bull’s stunning performance and right from the beginning of the show’s first number, it is apparent that her efforts will be received with a well-deserved standing ovation. This is a show for Etta James fans of course, but also for music lovers too and it is one not to be missed.

Advertisements

Sounds of the city

The Sound of a Finished Kiss (Now Look Here and Electric Moon in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

June 12 – 16

Australian alternative rock band The Go-Betweens is part of the architecture of this city – not only culturally, but literally, courtesy of the inner city Brisbane toll bridge named in their honour. The indie band found cult fame (but no fortune) with their idiosyncratic music, focussed on the personal rather than the political at a time of political turmoil in the state (the band formed at UQ when Queensland was halfway through Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s almost two decades as Premier). It is appropriate, therefore to have the band’s songs tell the story of a generation and a city that shaped it, which is the tag-line for the world premiere collaboration between acclaimed Brisbane theatre and music companies Now Look Here and Electric Moon, “The Sound of a Finished Kiss”.

beginning.jpg

At its core, the show, which is written and directed by Kate Wild, is a celebration of the band’s rich musical legacy, frozen in time within the early ‘90s era. It begins however in the less distant past; it is 2016 when one of a now-far-flung group of friends finds a mixtape that transports her from London back to the endless empty days of Brisbane in 1991, when their collective potential still had possibility for fulfillment.

Becky (Kat Henry) has just moved from Toowoomba to the sophisticated big smoke city of Brisbane for university. At O-week she meets Zed (Lucas Stibbard) who has similarly relocated from Mackay, only with a more personal reason driving his desire for a fresh start. For the next two years they hang out as Becky works down a list of coming-of-age milestones and through a series of monologues interwoven with the songs they loved, we see them relive the events which shattered friendships and scattered the four friends of their group across the world. Like the music itself, their stories navigate an array of emotions, from the euphoric to the painful and many moments of humour as snippets of the different perspectives of relationships reveal their distinct characters.

4 characters.jpg

One thing Brisbane does well is tell its own stories, whether in words, through music or on stage. “The Sound of a Finished Kiss” combines all three of these. The show is full of referential fondness for the city and its locations, in descriptions of West End traffic and changes to its landscapes, our slow brown river, its Story Bridge, Queen Street Mall and The Beat. And description of a party in a verandas-all-around-Queenslander in all its swampie, fire-twirling, goon-bladder drinking, literary discussion glory is like a step back in time to a life with a different group of people, with time to spend and squander.

The show’s 90-minute running times flies by, despite the simplicity of its narrative, which is appropriate given that at the age of its characters, everything seems immense. What is big, however, are the sounds of the show’s live five-piece band and four talented actor/musicians. Musical director James Lees of Electric Moon effectively unites the music of The Go-Betweens with Wild’s original story. Although some songs go on a little bit longer than necessary, they all fit effectively into the narrative, especially given the different song writing styles of the band’s two front men, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. As an opener, the heartfelt ‘Cattle and Cane’ for example, written by McLennan as a longing for his boyhood Rockhampton farm home while homesick after relocation to London, evokes an identifiable recall of wanting to venture forth to a bigger, brighter world and later nostalgia for what has been left behind, in words like ‘I recall coming home through fields of cane… the sky a rain of falling cinders’, especially to those, like me, whose own hometown memories include the evening haze of cane fires and their black cinder burn off.

lucas.jpg

All members of the ensemble cast deliver in every respect. Kat Henry is a naively-optimistic Becky in counter to Lucas Stibbard’s eyes-downcast, hands-in-pocket loner, Zed, yet together they make ‘Right Here’ an at-once cutesy and heartfelt duet.Lucinda Shaw is a tour-de-force as Karla, Becky’s indie spirit guide. And vocally she is magnificent, moving from husky smokiness to screaming heights in the post-punk B-side ‘Karen’ (written by Robert Foster as a tribute to University of Queensland Library staff). And her later ‘Bye Bye Pride’, about the humility of healing and moving on with life is a memorable combination of vulnerability and vocal power.

lucinda.jpg

As the self-assured and almost larger-than-life Mike, Sandro Colarelli is just as compelling. In ‘Drive for Your Memory’, a song Robert Forster wrote reflecting about his break-up with the band’s drummer Lindy Morrison, he is an irresistible force in description of how Mike is affected by a love that couldn’t be, yet almost was… ‘Deep down I’m lonely and I miss my friend’. And in ‘The House Jack Kerouac Built’, recognition of a bad situation becoming worse, his rich, tremulous modern-day crooning sounds are delicious in their Morrissey shades, especially as he laments his loneliness in the number’s final lines. The song is also unforgettable due to its full band arrangement and it is wonderful to often see its musicians Ruth Gardner, Richard Grantham, Brett Harris, James Lees and Karl O’Shea revealed from behind the back-of-stage scrim screen in some numbers.

band.jpg

Like the breezy, melodic mid-tempo number ‘Spring Rain’ which looks back on living in Brisbane suburbia and ‘driving my first car, my elbows in the breeze’ “The Sound of a Finished Kiss” has an essentially-beautiful simplicity to its experience. As celebration of The Go-Betweens’ rich musical legacy, it is worthy enough in its revisit of Grant McLennan’s melodic genius and Robert Forster’s evocative lyrics. But with its backstory of the city and some of its people, it is simply superb.

The music conjures up the past, as only music can do, beyond just the summer sounds of their most commercial hit ‘Streets of Your Town’. As a then NQ swampie who road-tripped from Mackay to Brisbane in a Datsun Sunny listening to The KLF for life-anew at the University of Queensland, it not only made me sentimental, but left me lamenting about youth being wasted on the young. Indeed, so powerful is its evocation of era, that it can make theatregoers nostalgic for a time and place they didn’t personally encounter.

Regardless of your experience, or otherwise, of Brisbane’s unique subculture in the early 1990s, however, it still offers examination of some resonate, universal themes that will leave audiences with urge to reconnect with friends from long-ago lives. This is a show with an all-too-short initial run whose virtually sold-out season stands as testament to its need to return its sounds of our city to a stage. In the meantime, we can await another viewing with revisit of old ‘Tweens albums and re-read of “He Died with a Felafel in His Hand” and “Zigzag Street”.

Bursting Bare

Bare (Understudy Productions)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

May 24 – June 3

two boys.jpg

Understudy Production’s “Bare” is one of those much-buzzed-about shows whose run has been pretty-much sold out since before its opening night, and so its packed audience is filled with anticipation. Thankfully, it is an expectation that is realised in a slick production bursting with talent.

Since the pop-opera debuted in Los Angeles in 2000, before its 2004 off-Broadway production, it has become a contemporary cult classic. Its shades of “Holding The Man” story is of star-crossed lovers Peter (Shaun Kohlman), who is preparing to come out to his mother (Jenny Woodward), and resident golden boy Jason (Jason Bentley), who desperately wants to keep their attraction secret. The boys are among Catholic boarding school students rehearsing for a production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, while struggling with their own ideas around religion, sexuality and identity. So emotions are running high when the boys’ romance gradually comes to light (finding echoes in the drama club’s production) not just for the boys themselves but those around them, including Jason’s sharp-tonged and self-deprecating sister Nadia (Sarah Whalen) and the popular Ivy (Jordan Malone) who has been cast as Juliet to Jason’s Romeo in the play, but whose feelings transcend the stage.

Peter.jpg

The show is, indeed, an emotional one of much light and shade. Act One explores the characters and the cast connect well with each other, however, Act Two is the standout as it takes a heartbreaking turn thanks to the consummate performances of the cast’s principle players. Kohlman brings depth and emotional range to the vulnerable Peter. He not only has tears running down his cheeks at times, but evokes them in audience member eyes also in response to the show’s tragic final moments. And Bentley has a strong stage presence as the popular athlete Jason who fears losing his family and status. His charisma effectively conveys not only Jason’s natural charm, but his complexity, making him difficult to dislike despite his poor decisions and treatment of the tender Peter. Malone gives a strong but tender performance as the troubled Ivy, who has her sights set on Jason, at her best in ballads such as ‘All Grown Up, which vocally capture her heartbreak.

Also of note is Sarah Whalen whose perfect comic timing makes Jason’s outspoken sister Nadia’s biting wit, hilarious in its tell-it-as-it-is put-downs of Ivy for her pursuit of her brother. And Melissa Western is superb as the school’s sassy, no-nonsense drama teacher, Sister Chantelle, who also appears to an intoxicated Peter as a vision of the Virgin Mary, complete with backup Angels, to sing a funky gospel number about how he needs to come out to his mother (‘911 Emergency’).

Virgin Mary.jpg

There are no weak links among ensemble performances either. Fresh from his run as Collins in “Rent”, James Shaw is committed in his performance of the Priest’s Old Testament judgment and makes his Act Two song ‘Cross’, during which, at confession, he advises Jason to deny his natural feelings, vocally very strong. And Maddison McDonald and Trent Owers are delightfully authentic in their moments on stage as the frisky teens with attitude.

Tanya.jpg

The show’s sung-through score features a variety of melodies, from rock numbers to soaring ballads and even a rap about rave drugs (‘Wonderland’), and, accordingly, it is easy to appreciate its sometimes-description as the artistic child of “Rent”. The band is excellent throughout. In Act One, in particular, Musical Director Luke Volker creates a solid rock sound, while when souls are bared in Act Two, with Jason struggling through his problems with Ivy (‘Touch My Soul’) and Peter deciding to come out to his mother (‘See Me’), musical moments are softened with some exquisite string sounds courtesy of cellist Kate Robinson.

Melissa Western.jpg

The musical pace, is, however, relentless. With 36 numbers in total, it becomes difficult to recall standouts beyond sassy Sister Chantelle’s belting ‘God Don’t Make No Trash’ during which she shows intuitive sensitivity and New Testament compassion to calm Peter’s fears of losing his great love. Aside from the final number ‘No Voice’ which represents a beautiful combine of ensemble voices, it is the solo numbers in this production that are most affecting, beginning with duet between Peter and his mother which features as a turning point in the show’s tone, given its raw emotion.

catholic school.jpg

The complex conversations set to music in many of the show’s numbers give their words an appealing honesty and the integration of Shakespearean prose as lyrics adds another, wonderful layer to an already impressive aesthetic. Versatile use is made of the Visy Theatre space, with a stained glass backdrop and benches shaped together as a cross, not only achieving an intimacy in spite of its large cast, but reminding that religion is always present. And the choreography is excellent, making the relatively small stage seem anything but, yet never impinging of the enthusiastic energy of ensemble rock numbers. Only some missed microphone cues clunk up an otherwise perfectly polished, professional production.

Jason.jpg

“Bare” is no breezy musical experience. Its weighty subject matter of turmoil and moral hypocrisy amidst the breakdown of institutions like religion, education and the family make for an emotionally charged, tension-filled story. The pop-rock chronicle of ill-fated gay love at a co-ed Roman Catholic boarding school may be an ambitious undertaking, but it is an aspiration resolutely realised.

As an important piece in its portrayal of those still struggling to be heard even in today’s yes-vote world, it is perfect for inclusion in the Melt Festival of Queer Arts and Culture. The honest and real story of teenage love and loss confirms Understudy Productions not just as a rising star, but a company with a prominent place in the Brisbane theatre scene, and, as such, should not be missed.

Love songs reclaimed

Coupling

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

May 19

camerta

The number 13 may have unlucky connotations for some, but for Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, it offers only excellence as 13 of its musicians begin “Coupling” with string sounds of what is revealed to be ‘Believe’ from the messiah herself, Cher. The show/queer love mix tape which features at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the 2018 Melt Festival of Queer Arts and Culture, is a musical collaboration of the most entertaining sort as it reclaims great love duets of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s for same sex couples.

Thanks to Trevor Jones’ impressive arrangements, the show offers exciting new takes on old favourites. With such an extensive repertoire from which to draw, the playlist covers a range of emotions and various stages of relationships, from Kylie and Jason’s much-loved number-one ‘Especially for You’ and Elton John and Kiki Dee’s Mowtownish ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ to Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond’s ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ lament of heartbroken lovers who have drifted apart and Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin’s ‘Separate Lives’. Ultimately, however, there is a huge rejoice in love at the organising centre of both its songbook and life’s experience alike.

singers.jpg

Not all songs are the perhaps expected sweet ditties or yearning ballads. In amongst the smooth grooves and sexy beats, is a rousing ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, theme song to the greatest of guilty secret favourite films “Dirty Dancing”.  And special guest vocalists Sean Andrews, David Ouch, Luke Hodgson, Greg Moore, Monique Dawes, Emily Gilhome, Jessica Mahony and Ellen Reed all do much to make each number distinctive from its source material, beyond just their reappropriation as same sex couple duets. David Ouch makes ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves’ particularly provocative, and entertaining, and Greg Moore gives audiences an early highlight courtesy of a raunchy ‘Islands in the Stream’. There is comedy too, for example in an epic love duet sing off melody featuring, amongst others, a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ vs “Home and Away” theme battle.

As is always the case with Camerata, the music is both beautiful and flawless. Striking string sounds soar songs like ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and ‘Leather and Lace’. Indeed, one of the most marvellous things about Jones’ arrangements is the opportunity they provide for the Camerata musicians to display their skills, not just in complement to the vocalists, but in showcase instrumental sections. Vocal performances are strong from the start. Ellen Reed is a particular standout throughout, in songs from ‘Suddenly’ to ‘You’re the One that I Want’. And in unite, the eight vocalists work wonderfully together in reminder that love can withstand the struggles of a relationship and make it stronger ‘Up Where We Belong’.

“Coupling” is a celebration of so many things: songs, music, love and vocal talent. In its journey through showcase of all of these aspects, it may take audience members to some unexpected places, such as the “Family Ties” theme song, but this just makes for an all-the-more-fun ride. With clap and sing-along opportunities galore, there is certainly a mood of celebration, with smitten audiences clearly wanting for more at the end of its 70-minute duration. “Coupling” may be like a daggy mix tape, but it is compilation crafted with nothing but love, and it serves as a real highlight of this year’s Melt festival. By simultaneously celebrating music nostalgia and giving the associated sentimentality new scope, it speaks musically and lyrically to audience members of all persuasions and preferences, musical or otherwise, making everyone believe in life not only after, but before and during love.

English alien exposé

Resident Alien (Cameron Lukey)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

May 17 – 20

‘It takes a man to suffer ignorance a smile, 

Be yourself no matter what they say.’ ….

So go the words of Sting’s 1987 song ‘An Englishman in New York’. And the Englishman in question was 1970s gay icon, English writer, raconteur and actor Quentin Crisp. At the time, Crisp was a resident alien in America, which is where audiences join him (Paul Capsis) for the show of that name, “Resident Alien”, which is appearing at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the 2018 Melt Festival of Queer Arts and Culture

DSC_4053-996x663.jpg

The one-man show’s setting is Crisp’s dust-filled, filthy New York boarding house room, where the opinionated writer lived the last years of his life and where he surrounds himself with books he never reads, being who he is rather than what society wants him to be.  his is his dressing room for the stage of the world outside and so we become privy to his routines as, knowing he is being watched, he potters about his hermitage watching Oprah on a portable television and preparing himself for a luncheon date with Mr Brown and Mr Black. The 70-minute monologue that follows moves naturally from reflection on the superficial nature of modern fame to personal anecdotes and explanation of the logic behind his shocking surroundings. There is a real conversational feel to the way his musings are shared, with an intimacy enhanced by the Visy Theatre’s cosy space.

Appropriately given its subject matter, the script contains sharp and biting wit of the Oscar Wilde sort as Crisp offers a range of outspoken philosophies about societal institutions like education and marriage and in reflection of the differences between life in the US and UK. And much comedy comes from his not-entirely-eccentric, pithy observations and his unwavering belief in their wisdom. Relationships, politics … nothing is off limits from speaking his truth, not even Princess Diana. (“All she had to do was wave at the crowds.’’)

dsc-3987_1_orig.jpg

Multi award winning actor Paul Capsis more than just looks the part, but embodies it in every way. He captures Crisp’s theatrical, androgynous style, especially when dressed in suit, scarf and tilted hat atop quaffed locks (his hair, in particular, is perfection), but he also captures that voice; his every inflection is precise in its inhabit of the elderly effeminate icon’s being in complement to his every nuanced gesture, movement and rubber-faced reaction. So mesmerising is his performance to observe, that the audience watches in absorbed and engaged silence even when he is just frying eggs on his portable stovetop. Indeed, the use of silence features effectively throughout the piece and helps to present a Crisp at odds with his public persona as he takes small steps around the room, using everything around him for balance.

“Resident Alien” represents theatre at its very best. Its staging and production values are exquisite and its script is authentically filled with actual Crisp quotes. Capsis’ portrayal of Crisp is absolutely compelling, in fact, it is one of the best performances you will see this year, well deserving of its full standing ovation on opening night. Though on the surface it shares a glimpse into Quentin Crisp’s fascinating life, it is so well crafted as to also expose the essential vulnerability beneath the flamboyant veneer of the fiercely individual celebrity, giving audience members much to consider in reflection about whether we should pity Crisp for his living conditions or praise him for the honesty with which he viewed the world.

Mimi manifested

Like Mariah (Josh Daveta)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Turbine Studio

May 17 – 19

Did you know that Mariah Carey fans are referred to as Lambs, collectively known as her Lambility? Attendees at Josh Daveta’s “Like Mariah” probably do, given that, at times, the show seems more like a support group for the songstress’ superfans. As such, there is a wonderful feel to the night as Daveta often relocates from the stage to move amongst the partly-cabaret-seated daahlings of the audience in celebration of everyone’s favourite diva Mariah Carey.

The show, which was first seen last year at the New Globe Theatre is playing in 2018 as part of the Melt Festival of Queer Arts and Culture. And it seems there may be no better place to pay homage to the ultimate angelic-voiced, gay-icon diva. In many ways, the more intimate setting of the Turbine Studio seems like a better fit too, especially in suit of inspirational and emotional ballads like ‘Thank God I Found You’.

Clearly Daveta is a Mimi fan, measuring his life by what Mariah song was a hit at the time, he tells us. Appropriately then perhaps, “Like Mariah” takes its audiences on a journey through many of Carey’s eras, from the expected classics like ‘Fantasy’ to the pop hit ‘Always Be My Baby and dancier numbers like ‘Make It Happen’. In all instances, Daveta’s stunning vocals glide between the elusive chanteuse’s classics in evocation of the full dreamy Mariah sound. He slays the vocals in ‘My All’, conveying both tenderness and power in tell of the loneliness of wanting just one more night with an estranged lover, and the polished melody of her iconic debut single ‘Vision of Love’ again make it a show highlight.

32657536_10156543555623866_5057637893019795456_n.jpg

Daveta is a generous performer, always reminding us of his backup singers’ (Frances Walters, Erika Naddei and Cassie George) own outstanding vocal skills and we spend a lot of the show’s time in repeated acknowledgment of their admittedly excellent vocals. Dare I say, like in Carey’s 2016/2017 New Year’s Eve lip-sync fail in Times Square, we see George deliver a fantastic, upbeat and lighthearted ‘Emotions’ for the syncing Daveta, while Erica Naddei helps us towards a lovely show ending with ‘I’ll Be There’ in nod to the incredible duets of Carey’s career. Even Peta Wilson on keys is given a chance to show her stuff through, for example, interlude in a bouncy ‘Touch My Body.

Even for those who aren’t fan enough to know Carey’s most recent studio album, “Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse”, the show still has something to offer. The hits everyone knows are all there and the atmosphere is infectiously fun. The show offers plenty of opportunity to sing and clap along to mid-tempo numbers like ‘Always Be My Baby’ and to marvel about Carey’s number one hits, five-octave vocal range and immense vocal power. There is also a lot of humour as well, through inclusion of a Mariah-style dance break, with requisite attitude of course, and as Daveta responds to audience involvement with the instant wit of an epic diva. But most of all “Like Mariah” is an astonishing display of some of the lushest vocals around. Indeed, in Daveta’s hands the spirit of the Songbird Supreme lives on long and strong.

Comfortable Carlson comedy

Studies Have Shown (Urzila Carlson)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

March 22 – 25

UrzilaCarlson2347x1320-1178x663.jpg

Studies show knowledge is power and with her knowledge of the absurdity of online surveys, Carlson is well equipped to provide commentary on them, whether they be about cats vs dogs or toilet cubicle comparisons. And the result is her very funny show “Studies Have Shown”.  Indeed, in isolating the absurdities of modern life, Carlson has constructed a very accessible work that combines comfortable observational comedy with personal amusement.

Although there is some literal toilet humour, some of the most humourous moments come from her personal reflections of parenting and the cultural shock of moving from South Africa to New Zealand. And when, early on, she shares her experiences road-tripping around Australia between gigs, with her recall about overtaking lanes and reflection on Canberra audiences, it makes for a comfortable initiation that audience members appreciate.

Carlson is a self-confessed bogan from way back, which only makes audiences love her more. Her demeanour is at once forthright and casual and so very engaging, in a conversational type way. She doesn’t pick on the audience (despite reassuring that she does have the skillset), though there is a serious (and well-received) dig at anti-vaxxers.

“Studies Have Shown” represents a wonderful respite from the confrontational and controversial humour of many comedians today. In finding absurd in the everyday it presents an easy-to-appreciate but still cleverly crafted through-line as it moves from the personal experience to hit some universal truths and it is easy to understand why Carlson’s Brisbane Comedy Festival season was so quickly sold out.