Celia Pacquola in The Looking Glass | Review by Steve Bennett

Celia Pacquola in The Looking Glass

Review by Steve Bennett

Celia Pacquola’s inexorable rise into the Australian comedy A-list takes another step forward. Not just because she’s playing the 1,000-seater Comedy Theatre; but because she’s doing so with an hour of smart, witty self-deprecating material with mass appeal.

‘So I’m single…’ has become such a familiar comedy set-up that it’s one of the icebreakers Zoe Coombs Marr uses to identify her alter-ego Dave as a hideous hack. But Pacquola – who insists she’s happy with that relationship status even though she’s well aware no one will believe that – makes it her own. She manages to offer anecdotes from her dalliance with internet dating that are amusing enough to override the fact this is familiar stand-up territory. And even that old staple of farting in front of your partner is given a new, if icky, perspective.

The singledom (which she uses cold, hard science to justify as the sensible choice) fits nicely into her shtick as a functional stuff-up: 33, borderline alcoholic and inattentive to detail. Sure, playing such a big room might look impressive, she argues, but ‘in the real world’ she is a mess of insecurities, troubling fantasies and harsh intolerances.

Most of her litany of bugbears are dismissed with a pithy putdown, and make the audience instinctively empathise, as she puts the room on the same judgmental wavelength. If you thing toe-rings are a turn-off, she’s with you… which sparks an aside leading to a memorable bit of silly linguistic logic. Such love of wordplay means she’s not above the occasional ‘dad joke’ now and again.

While her failings are core to the set, she has little time for nonsense from others. Reading an extract from supermodel Miranda Kerr’s book allegedly empathising with insecure teens might seem like low-hanging fruit, but her brisk mockery nails it.

The show comprises lots of quite short routines, such as visiting a cat cafe or accidentally finding herself Melbourne’s scrawny second Avalon. Not every one zings, but nor does the energy ever lull, either as the pace is fast and her personality engaging.

Her delivery trick of leaving just a beat or two after a potentially mean-spirited line before breaking into a cheeky smile, is endearing and effective, despite being a slightly learned technique – while she uses her acting chops on display in the sitcom Utopia (or Dreamland in the rest of the world) to restrained effect.. except when stupidly mimicking a guinea pig, when she properly goes for it.

And with such a wide-ranging set, there’s sure to be something for everybody. It probably won’t be too long until 1,000 seats aren’t enough.

Review date: 5 Apr 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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