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Fiona O’Loughin: Spirited

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

It’s happened to the best of us: sitting in a theatre, perhaps the worse for wear, you find yourself nodding off during the show. It certainly happened to Fiona O’Loughin – but while she was on stage.

That incident was a warning that alerted this Australian comic that she might, just might, be an alcoholic. Nor was it the only warning; by the sound of her anecdotes here, for a few months her life had more red flags than a Communist rally.

The problem seemed to have crept up on her. Until her mid-thirties, she was an ordinary mother of five in the tiny and remote Northern Territories outpost of Alice Spring. But then she started comedy, and before too long those pre-gig nerve-settlers, and those post-gig wind-down drinks became a problem.

Comedy introduced O’Loughlin to alcoholism, and now she’s returning the favour. Maybe it’s one of the less well-known 12 steps: ‘Do a one-woman show about your struggle with the bottle.’

Put that way it sounds unsufferably pious; but fear not, no-nonsense O’Loughlin has no room for sentiment. She still thinks booze is ace – it’s just a shame she drank her lifetime’s allocation so quickly and isn’t allowed any more. She did, at least, get some hilarious drinking tales out of it – even if it was at the expense of her own dignity. She was once so drunk even Prince Philip thought she was inappropriate, the most ironic of the many rock bottoms she plunged through.

She’s a great storyteller – although this is not really a storytelling show, but a gag-packed hour of superb stand-up on her theme. As well as the self-deprecating lines about her own incorrigible behaviour, other jokes come at the expense of her tiny home town, where the very idea of Alcoholics Anonymous is oxymoronic, and from her suffer-no-fools attitude, even when sober. Being a reformed alcoholic just gives her latitude to be mean. ‘I don’t want to be a bitch,’ she protests. ‘But I’m not well…’ On top of this she has the menopause to contend with as well – heaven forbid she should get even more cranky.

Of course there’s a whole self-help industry built up around problems like hers, parts of it more useful than others; and O’Loughlin lays into the likes of Oprah and Dr Phil in routines which were less personal, but certainly seemed to strike a chord with those who do watch such things. A poignant song and slideshow brings the show to a close, but make sure you stick around till the end for the true message of O’Loughlin’s experiences.

She’s a top-flight comedian and this sincere, slick and disgracefully funny show is an great success. Cheers!

Review date: 18 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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