Gadsby is a terrific stand-up comedian at the top of her game. Her understanding and control of the form – and of the audience – is complete. Her jokes are well crafted and funny. The way she uses her knowledge of art history to illuminate misogyny and mental illness is enthralling.
Much of her material, though, is shot through with great pain and sorrow – Gadsby being a survivor of decades of pernicious homophobia. In 1997, she recalls, the “slow Twitter” of letters pages in Tasmanian newspapers was particularly “brutal” as the Tasmanian public debated whether or not the state’s anti-gay laws should be repealed.
The general sentiment, she says, was, “Gays, why don’t you pack up your AIDS in a suitcase and f— off to Mardi Gras?”
Gadsby elects not to remark upon the fact that a whole new wave of public homophobia unleashed by the plebiscite on same-sex marriage had only just caused yet another wave of distress for gay Australians, but one doesn’t imagine that retrograde symmetry being lost on her audience.
Such compounding cruelties have, for Gadsby, rendered the set-up, punch style of comedy useless. The set-up and punchline, she explains, are only the beginning and middle of a story; if they misrepresent what happened after the punch the truth is lost.
Gadsby’s reexamination of one of her old jokes in this light brings a devastating revelation that sucks the breath out of the viewer. And it’s Gadsby’s raw and entirely understandable anger about such things that have her talking here about leaving comedy once Nanette is finished.
She can no longer tell her story without anger, she says, but she doesn’t want it defined by anger, and she doesn’t want her anger to have a pernicious effect on her audience and the wider world.
Viewers will hope that she finds a way to return to the stage. If not, Nanette will always remain, among other things, a priceless gift to those who will suffer in the future what Gadsby has suffered in the past.
An MI5 officer and an international assassin stalk each other through the postcard capitals of Europe. Standard spy stuff, except that it’s not. The MI5 woman is the relatably ordinary Eve (Sandra Oh), the killer is the playful psychopath Villanelle (Jodie Comer, who was so intensely unsettling in Thirteen, and is equally captivating here), and there’s a dark, low-key humour and feminist perspective underlying the tense and bloody action. At the base of it all is man’s instinctive underestimation of woman. It’s Villanelle’s non-threatening femininity that allows her to get so close to her victims – a Russian politician here, an Italian mafia boss there. Eve is similarly underestimated by some of the men in her life, but not by formidable MI5 higher-up Carolyn (Fiona Shaw). Will Villanelle fatally underestimate Eve, or vice-versa? Press “play” to find out, as they say in the classics. Based on novels by Luke Jennings, and with Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge serving as a writer and an executive producer, it’s a surprisingly fresh, taut and entertaining take on a thoroughly durable genre.
All or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks
Amazon Prime Video
Sports docos usually contrast the ecstasy of victory with the agony of defeat. Last year’s All Blacks, however, barely tasted defeat as they smashed Samoa, drew a series with the British and Irish Lions and then rolled undefeated through the 2017 Rugby Championship. So the agony in this engrossing new series is that of losing one’s spot through injury or the sudden rise of a younger star. The early episodes provide interesting insights into the team as players speak frankly about their own struggles.
This six-part thriller from BAFTA-winning screenwriter Peter Moffat (Silk, Cambridge Spies) follows tenacious British barrister Maya (Sophie Okonedo) into a nightmare. She’s being courted to become director of public prosecutions and join the establishment she has spent decades fighting, but some very bad people want to make sure this doesn’t happen. The shattering secret kept by Maya’s husband (Hustle‘s Adrian Lester) looks like giving the bad guys the leverage they need. Tautly directed and all the more gripping for having been inspired by Britain’s real-life undercover policing scandal.
Amazon Prime Video
Shawn Ryan’s peerless white-knuckle dirty-cop series was the show that set Walton Goggins’ star on the rise – and all these years later Goggins remains nothing short of magnetic as crooked, sleazy, redneck cop Shane Vendrell. He stars alongside Michael Chiklis, who brings great physicality and emotional range to the lead role of brutal LAPD detective Vic Mackey. The show grabs the viewer by the throat from the very first episode – the shocking ending of which sets up seven seasons of superb drama.
Body Melt: Director’s Cut
Back in 1993, Melbourne writer-director Philip Brophy brought us this tongue-in-cheek schlock-horror splatterfest about a mad scientist (Neighbours‘ Ian Smith) and his disastrous experiments on the unwitting residents of a suburban cul-de-sac. It would have been a blast with any cast, but what a cast it had: Gerard Kennedy, Lisa McCune, Brett Climo, Andrew Daddo, William McInnes, Rosemary Margan and a young Ben Geurens to name just a few. Featuring gratuitious nudity, freakish mutant yokels and exploding faces, it’s a must-see for all Australians.
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