Celia Pacquola: Am I Strange

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Great. An hour in which an attractive twentysomething bitches about how her conniving ex systematically cheated on her. This sounds more like the start of a wine-drenched evening of wallowing self-pity, whining about how all men are bastards through her smeared mascara, than an alluring prospect for a cheery stand-up show.

But in her solo debut, Celia Paquola adroitly mixes warm self-deprecation, barbed asides, astute insight and a dash of whimsy to fashion a delightfully witty hour with ambitions that extend well beyond the original premise of a collapsed relationship. That loss is comedy’s gain.

In Am I Strange, the young Melburnian leads the audience through the classic five stages associated with any emotional trauma: denial, anger, depression, acceptance, full-length festival show…

The trick she uses sparingly but skilfully to illustrate the process is that with a click of her fingers and a snap lighting change, we are transported inside her head to find out how her mind was working. Through the Numbskulls of paranoia, conscience, optimism and the like she acts out little scenarios to illustrate the thoughts we’ve all had at one time or another. It’s not a strikingly original concept, but Paquola uses it to great theatrical effect, providing a frequent change of pace for the monologue.

She playfully mulls the nature of relationships, her own shortsightedness and her ex’s misdeeds with alluring honesty and a relaxed good humour that makes her easily likeable, smoothing over the rare occasions where a gag misfires. The thrust is generally thoughtful, generously sprinkled with funny metaphors and smart turns of phase.

She gets distracted now and again, with segments about dolphin rapists or possible nicknames for herself which seem like stand-up routines grafted onto the main train of thought. But the chunks earn their place in the show by simple fact of being funny.

For the personally bleak subject matter, Paquola has produced a rich, mature show that’s ultimately optimistic - romantic even – albeit tinged with a touch of pathos. Like I said at the start: great.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett Reviewed in: Melbourne

Review date: 1 Jan 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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