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Celia Pacquola: Delayed

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Two years ago, Celia Pacquola packed her bags and moved to London to better herself – even though the upheaval would involve trying to maintain a long-distance relationship.

Despite the intense stand-up scene in the UK, her comedy hasn’t come on by any great leaps and bounds from being exposed to it. She was always affable and engaging – a personality which shines through Delayed – and while the show includes some strong routines, it hasn’t quite got the distinctive sparkle that made her previous festival shows such stand-outs.

She says she is going to do the impossible and make stories from an overseas trip interesting – which she does, even if it’s by only loosely sticking to the theme of whether her adventures have made her a better person. She says wanted to change her timid, klutzy yet optimistic persona, without acknowledging it’s quite an adorable combination for a comic to have. To do so would ruin the self-deprecation that’s her strongest weapon.

There are some strong bits of stand-up here; the image of her picking fights with boxes of hair dye is a fantastic one, and she even finds some witty and distinctive material in that hoary old topic of air travel. Ugly dancing is a familiar comedy subject, too, and her demonstrations here are well-observed and physically funny.

Delayed is well-structured, too, with a couple of very nice, unpredictable callbacks and a climax which, although clearly contrived to give a relatively minor showbiz encounter life-affirming consequences, nicely pulls together the ideas she set up earlier.

It’s all very smooth. Perhaps a little too smooth? There seems an astute awareness of all the elements you need for a successful, celebratory show, from making a big cause out of a small act of kindness (high-fiving) to the will-they-won’t-they hook of whether the transcontinental relationship will hold out. Even the delivery is well-measured, such as the way she holds her cheeky smile after a wry line to signpost that’s where the laugh goes.

There’s no sense this is cynical – that would be far out of character for Pacquola’s easy charm and good humour – but the show does fit a template. A little more ambiguity (there is the slenderest of suggestions in Delayed that Pacquola has an inner bitch fighting to get out) and less blatant slickness would work wonders, without spoiling the obvious assets of this charismatic and accomplished comedian.

Review date: 8 Apr 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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