Alice Fraser: The Resistance | Melbourne comedy festival review by Steve Bennett
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Alice Fraser: The Resistance

Melbourne comedy festival review by Steve Bennett

There’s something almost literary about Alice Fraser’s incisive, dextrous hour of compelling storytelling: the way she brings characters to vivid life, then resolves their narratives to a bigger picture illuminating what we could pretentiously call the human condition.

And if that sounds rather grand, The Resistance is as silly as it is smart, undercutting astute insight with a daft pun or jaunty tune on her banjo.

The show revolves around an eclectic collection of peculiar characters who share a tumbledown, cockroach-infested house owned by her grandmother, including a manic-depressive, finger-deficient Chilean gardener, a veiled Indian witch and an Hungarian peasant woman.

And, yes, the immaculate liberal in Fraser does acknowledge the baggage that comes with the word ‘peasant’. She has a meta awareness of the artifice of both the stories she’s telling and the stories we use to make sense of the world: pointing out there may be blurs between fact and fiction in her own narrative, and that the only difference between comedy and tragedy is where you open and close the curtains.

That becomes explicit at the end of the second act, once we’ve been introduced to this colourful cast of eccentrics, when Fraser gives us the chance to leave on a high or listen on for the tragedy. Despite her warning, the poignant conclusion is less bleak than it is inspirational about the capabilities of the human spirit under extreme circumstances.

But it’s a grey area, and Fraser likes foraging around in such moral ambiguities: challenging the notions that anyone’s a good person by default; questioning ideals of sex and beauty; and prodding at prejudices we might want to ignore. Her belief that little is absolute helps avoid any pitfalls of preachiness –  but in any case, her philosophising is concealed behind the many laughs, rather than forcing its way to the foreground.

Delightfully preposterous dating tips, elegant wordplay, silly songs and funny everyday stories offer easily digestible amuse bouches to compliment the richer banquet of her main story - all delivered with a self-effacing onstage charisma that recognises her own peculiarities, much of which come from a strict Buddhist upbringing.

In short, this is a classy, satisfying show that doesn’t compromise entertainment for substance. The Resistance is not futile.

Reviewed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, April 2016

Review date: 29 Jul 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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