Judith Lucy: Nothing Fancy

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

‘Who’s that lady?’ the Isley Brothers sing as Judith Lucy takes to the Soho Theatre stage. A good question, for although well-established as one of the leading ladies of Australian stand-up, she’s little known in the UK, having rarely visited these shores.

But although Britain doesn’t know who she is, Lucy herself has a very firm grasp of her own identity. She’s middle-aged and reckless, full of sarcasm and sass directed as much as her own messy life as towards others. She’s a over-friendly gossip, who could be accused of sharing too much about certain aspects of her life, were it not so confessionally engaging.

More than one person commented that Lucy reminded them of Dame Edna Everage. The accent’s certainly similar, and the similarities are most evident at the start as Lucy prowls the front rows, leaning forward with a probing curiosity, then amusingly belittling the lives of her chosen victims.

She specifically seeks out youngsters to mock, then bitches about the likes of Meg Ryan and Nicole Kidman. But that cheery derision is probably where the connection to the housewife superstar ends – for while Dame Edna is supremely confident in herself, Lucy is much more of a mess, voicing her own self-loathing with the same cynical wit with which she attacks others.

Lucy also offers some sharp observations about her treatment as a 44-year-old woman - even though, in herself, she acts as foolhardy now as when she was half her age. Nonetheless, the rest of the world means she’s consigned to receive terrible gifts, pressured to have insecurities about her body and doomed to be cast in unappealing roles, such as the racist bartender in the current cinema release The Sapphires. For her, talking about vaginal discharge is a feminist issue, no different from Louis CK waxing lyrical about masturbation.

Yet while Nothing Fancy is consistently entertaining, as a calling-card, it doesn’t quite do enough to stand out as a ‘must-see’ in London’s crowded comedy market, except, perhaps, for expats seeking a bit of humour from home.

The feeling is of a solid club set, with more workmanlike stand-up filling in between the peaks over the 75-minute show. Much of this comes from a running theme about paths to enlightenment, gleaned from her recent Australian TV series on the same topic, Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey. It’s fairly easy to mock some of the hippy ideas she encountered, and when she does so it tends to be a triumph of attitude over writing, while the story about her heading to a silent retreat doesn’t amount to much.

As the title suggest, this show is unadorned conversational stand-up, with no grand themes or performance pyrotechnics to help it stand out. Nor is it an inflated ‘greatest hits’ package of material from her 23-year career, but a slightly Anglicised version of the show she presented at the Melbourne Comedy Festival this year – an example of the show Lucy can do year-in, year-out. As such it’s a success, but probably a modest one.

Review date: 22 Nov 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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