BWW Review: DANIELLE WALKER: BUSH RAT, Soho Theatre
There's a moment that crystallised my thoughts while watching award-winning Australian stand up Danielle Walker. She's talking about her schooldays and mentions "horse girls", whose speech includes whinnies and whose hair is washed with equine shampoo. In Dean Street, you don't meet too many people with that in their memory banks and I just hope everyone's face wasn't as blank as mine as I stared back.
A couple more thoughts bubbled up too. One of the things I like most about London is that it is a city of migrants that is almost devoid of sentimentality for a lost world we once called "home" - you can see it on the faces of people travelling at Christmas, scowling at the prospect of even a few days away from The Smoke. That's because it's literally cheaper and easier to live anywhere else in the country (and probably, the world). Londoners may grumble about London life, but the ones who really don't like it have gone; those of us who remain rather like our Faustian deal with the metropolis and its ridiculous property prices, foul air and packed trains.
I thought too of Clive James, another Australian who made his way to Soho (albeit a generation or two back), whose Unreliable Memoirs probably feels dated 40 years on, but nevertheless mines an Australian childhood for its comic potential with real panache, its set pieces with spiders, septic tanks and other exotica some of the 20th centuries best comic writing.
Of course, it's hardly a criticism of any comic to remark that they are not as funny as Clive James (some of whose stuff would probably not fit with 21st century mores anyway) but Ms Walker covers such similar ground that comparisons are inevitable - if somewhat unfair.
We get tales of eccentric relatives and their country ways (usually involving firearms and animals), of sisterhood and the accommodations that requires, of a lost parent introduced, but curiously left largely unexplored.
The only question really worth asking about comedy though is... Is it funny? Well, some people around me loudly thought so - I guess drawings of three-legged pigs will float some people's boats - but, in this most subjective of fields, I'm bound to report that I didn't. The "Aren't my family strange?" schtick felt dated and, without much of a connection to wider concerns - for example, there's nothing approaching a satirical analysis of the Australian government's policy towards refugees or the aboriginal peoples - it's hard not to simply shrug one's shoulders. Meh...
Perhaps Tolstoy had it right - "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Ms Walker's happy, if exotically Outbackish, family just doesn't blow enough gas into the comedy balloon to keep it airborne for an hour. Perhaps we need to know a little more about that lost parent, sock needing a little buskin to really fly.