Louise Reay: It’s Only Birds: Half-dead ducks don’t help

It’s pretty weird hearing English after 45 minutes of concentrating hard on Chinese. It sounds so flat, an uninteresting drawl.

That was the most surprising element of the comedy show Louise Reay: It’s Only Birds, unless you count the distressing inability of the hapless audience member to read her cues.

And the latter was also the problem with her show. At least a third of it was improvised with said selected audience member. Realising she was fishing for a participant, I spent the first two-thirds of the show avoiding eye contact and shrinking behind the hairdo of the woman in front of me in the second row, and the last third cringing at the ‘volunteer’s’ discomfort.

It didn’t help that the audience which almost filled the venue were about as responsive as a half-dead duck, me most of all. We were a tough crowd. It was only midday, after all.

Reay persevered valiantly, never stopping her attempts to resuscitate us, eventually getting rewarded with signs of life toward the end.

Relying heavily on improvising off an active audience, she was hamstrung by venue and time slot. If she was playing there by the Scout Hall at 8pm, it would probably be a blast. At midday in The Hangar, I just wanted it to be over.

I’m the first to argue a good show is a good show no matter where or when, but the exception proves the rule (whether that is true or not I’m not sure, but it’s a good phrase that sounds cleva). Comedy is a different flotilla of ducks, it is best with a bit of liquor to paddle in, and in the abstract, Reay’s show is fantastic. She also just looks like a barrel of fun and even this flattest show proves her point: only 7% of communication is verbal. I almost wished I had caught her eye and been the one called onto stage. Instead of being embarrassed about being made to pretend to snuggle up to her because his wife was watching, I’d like to think I would’ve given her a big hug, and perhaps a sloppy kiss to boot.

She was a massive hit at the Adelaide Fringe, so go see one of her later shows, and hit that hip flask.

Louise Reay: It’s Only Birds is on at the National Arts Festival until Friday 7 July, book here.


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