Oh Cut Throat Comedy

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

The best advice new comics are normally given is to 'find your voice'. Australian Claire Hooper has produced a minor Fringe gem without using hers at all.

When she discovered a growth on her throat, she was told she'd need an operation which came with a small chance she would be left permanently dumb. Not the best news for anyone, let alone a comedian who has previously worked as a DJ, telemarketer and sex line operator.

So she vowed to put together a show that didn't require her voice. She could record a voiceover ahead of the operation, but couldn't rely on saying anything on stage. It certainly tested her ingenuity, as mime, dance, silent movies ­ just about any other form of non-verbal communication you can imagine, plus a few you probably wouldn't, are all employed in the course of this marvellously entertaining hour.

It certainly seems the right direction for 'Hoops', as the show features a home video of her performing an open mic stand-up set on the late Malcolm Hardee's Wibbley Wobbley boat (and how odd but nice to see him at the Fringe again, even in virtual form). She's ruthlessly heckled and seems totally out of her depth. Which perhaps isn't the best analogy, considering the circumstances.

But this show is in a different league to that timid, weak stand-up. It's beautifully put-together and masterfully executed, telling her story, keeping us entertained, and raising points about how much we depend on the voice, even in these days of texting, blogs and email. She is a hugely talented performer who exploits her endearing wide-eyed vulnerability to the full. The overwhelming medical establishment, the intimidating operation and its devastating possible consequences make her afraid and uncomprehending, just like her childhood self we see on wobbly, faded cinefilm.

She subtly manipulates your emotions, so as dramatic incidents in her health scare unfold, it's not just her with a lump in the throat. Then, with a masterful touch of bathos, will cheer you up with a blast of Bros or Britney and some daft, energetic dancing. Balloons, T-shirt slogans, pre-recorded tapes and sign language are all similarly employed to keep the story interesting and the pace varied.

There are some strokes of genius here, too, including the patented Hooper's Comedy Authenticator, which exposes the bullshit stand-ups can spout in the name of a joke, and for all the gimmicks, the show does exert an emotional pull.

You might not expect much from a show hidden away at midnight in one of the Gilded Balloon's sweatier venues, but take a punt. It might just leave you speechless with admiration.

Steve Bennett


Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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