Felicity Ward: I'm Exhausting | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review
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Felicity Ward: I'm Exhausting

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Now based in the UK, Felicity Ward is performing her first Australian shows in five years… and has quite a lot for us to catch up on.

Becoming a mum is the big one, and she’s amusing about being a slave to her tiny despot, now a toddler. Even if that premise is not original, the genuine exasperation and pent-up aggression elevates the material, as does Ward’s urgently manic, physical delivery. Plus, her passionate belief that childbirth is a miracle, which she describes in wonderfully off-kilter terms, is a rallying cry for the wonder of women.

Ward has kept her baby weight and is body-positive about going from size 6 to 14. This isn’t the funniest part of the hour, but the transformation is so stark it surely couldn’t go without comment. Meanwhile, she can add post-natal depression and befuddled ‘baby brain’ to her ADHD (undiagnosed, but a verdict you’d be hard-pressed to question after this intensely delivered hour) in the cocktail of mental health issues, which she exploits effectively and with plenty of self-awareness. 

She went even more nuts during lockdown, but that at least giving her the opportunity to work on her animal impressions, of which we get a few.

Visit Melbourne Melbourne International Comedy FestivvalMelbourne International Comedy Festiva news and reviews with Visit VictoriaYou will sympathise with her partner after all this – she’s exhausting, indeed – and that’s even before she drops the bombshell on him that she’s bisexual now. This strand seems underexploited, but  bisexuaity is the new veganism – you can’t be it, without broadcasting it.

Elsewhere, Ward’s unabashedly honest when sharing her humiliations, whether with the baby or without, with the funniest confession vividly awful in its retelling, further heightened by a feeling of ‘thank god it’s her, not me’. Given she’s so good at the cringe, she should do well in the David Brent role she’s taking in the Australian version of The Office.

Counterintuitively, however, the show ramps up as she moves away from first-hand anecdotes and into wider observational material, although the fact that the audience is by now attuned to her frantic, erratic delivery surely helps, too.

A routine about vegetarian food is brought alive by saying ‘Quorn’ ad absurdum, and you will never look at a packet of the meat substitute again without hearing Ward hilariously mangle its pronunciation. 

And the closing segment, offering sexual tips for men, goes down a storm – generating especially huge laughs of recognition from the women, delighted that this advice is getting an airing. Straight men should take notes, for Ward compiled this from hard experience. 

The relatability of her suffering, expressed with witty turns of phrase and a compelling, urgent delivery, all make for a triumphant return to the stage after all these years.

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Review date: 22 Apr 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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