Gillian Cosgriff: Actually, Good | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review
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Gillian Cosgriff: Actually, Good

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

From a very simple idea, Gillian Cosgriff has created a joyous, funny, life-affirming show, popping with delightful stand-up, sharp musical numbers and a beautiful spirit of celebration guaranteed to swell the spirits.

Last year, the musical comedian and reformed pessimist began asking friends to name a few of their favourite things. A top ten of life’s best experiences, ranked in order, from small pleasures such as getting a USB cable in the socket the right way around first time to big things like the tender memories of good times with friends.

The lists she’s been compiling in a big fancy book are a perfect post-pandemic fillip that she now shares with her audience, who contribute their own page over the hour. And in the spirit of a show which could easily find itself on such a list of things that are ‘actually good’, here’s the top ten things to adore about this captivating experience.

10. Her song Passport In The Chaos Drawer. A toe-tapping, lyrically dextrous song which set up her apparently shambolic mind (not that you’d know from this perfectly ordered show) and appropriately enough takes hugely entertaining digressions, ending up, somehow, by discussing the gender disparity in Guess Who?

9. The brilliance of the collective mind. Cosgriff could be accused of cheating a little by effectively crowdsourcing so many of the mini-moments of joy that make this hour so uplifting, but what comedian doesn’t tap their friends for ideas?

8. How she builds on those ideas. Cosgriff observes the very way people come up with their lists and makes that the skeleton of the show as much as her own top ten, adding richer texture and more thoughtfulness to what could otherwise be a glorified gratitude journal.

7. The story about her calling a performers’ mental health helpline. Cosgriff’s been away from the comedy circuit for three years, playing Delphini in the Melbourne production of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, the strains of which eventually took their toll. That she hit a wellbeing wobble might partially explain the upbeat nature of Actually Good - though she never labours that point – while also providing this hilarious anecdote about a grossly inappropriate therapist that comes with a delicious punchline.

6. Her ad-lib skills. While the show is carefully structured, inviting the audience’s own top tens brings a fluidity. Cosgriff is quick and witty in responding to suggestions and getting those putting forward ideas to expand on them (but only if they want, she’s very gentle in this consensual participation). That this is our list, for one night only, underlines the unique nature of live performance. 

5. The audience themselves. Cosgriff gets the crowd she deserves, as quirky, as positive and generous as she is, producing suggestions that charm and amuse in equal measure.

4. Her incredible musicality and presence. Cosgriff’s a hugely talented performer, with solid musical chops, an easy-going confidence that means she owns the stage, and a desire to craft a show with a sense of occasion, purpose and showmanship. Which she achieves with grace, charm and talent.

3. Her good heart. Her positivity is palpable and infectious, without ever being trite or feeling like an act. Even when she has a target to mocks it’s a) usually herself, such as her penchant to be nostalgic rather than living in the moment, and b) affectionate. 

2. The twist that – without giving anything away – provides some emotional heft to the proceedings.

1. The joy. How can a show celebrating the good things be anything but joyous? And Cosgriff’s exuberant performance supercharges that, filling everyone in the room with a fresh appreciation of all that there is to be happy about in this moment. What a triumph.

• Gillian Cosgriff: Actually, Good is at the Butterfly Club at 8.30pm until April 23, not Wednesdays

Review date: 4 Apr 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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