Hannah Gadsby at the Palladium review: A comedian at the top of her game

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Hannah Gadsby  (Ben King)
Hannah Gadsby (Ben King)

Hannah Gadsby’s 2017 show Nanette propelled the Tasmanian stand-up into the upper echelons of both the comedy world and the LGBT+ community’s power lists. Her sequel, Douglas, consolidated her new status. Her latest show, Body of Work, confirms that for Gadsby great things come in threes.

As she explains at the outset, this is not as hard-hitting as her groundbreaking work. In fact, despite what is going on in the world right now, it is positively “feelgood”. Apart from a few stumbles, and more of that shortly, Gadsby has been a happy bunny recently and is keen to tell her audience all about it.

The main change in her life is that she got married. Settling onto a stool to take the weight off a broken leg she says that nuptials were never really expected. In fact she had given more thought to her funeral than her wedding because at least she knew her funeral would definitely happen.

Gadsby is a terrifically skilled storyteller, painting vivid verbal pictures with just a few details. Regarding that leg injury, for example, she reports that it happened in Iceland, when she “didn’t read the label”. She tripped and, pointing below her smashed knee, “there was a separation of church and state”.

Her backpack-wearing wife, American producer Jenney “Jenno” Shamash, has added some much-appreciated stability to her life in middle age. She deftly contrasts her current domestic bliss with the excess baggage of earlier relationships. She finds mischievously dark humour in a traumatic incident involving a former lover and a rabbit on a drive one night.

Bringing things more up to date she touches on the autism diagnosis that was the subject of her last show, mocks Elon Musk’s phallic-shaped space exploits and waspishly criticises Netflix for some of their output even though they also released her last two specials. There is a bulletproof confidence throughout that is a sure sign of a comedian at the top of their game.

She is particularly entertaining when it comes to reflecting on stardom after Nanette, suggesting that she “should’ve prepared for fame” and blaming her lack of readiness for foot-in-mouth encounters with superfans Jodie Foster and Richard Curtis. A particularly delicious anecdote about the Love, Actually director finds her digging a hole and then continuing to dig.

Towards the end of a very slightly overlong bladder-challenging 100-minute set, she recalls enjoying the routine of lockdown until there was an unexpected event that she enjoyed even more. It is a beautifully neat finale which brings her captivating performance to a very tidy close. Her leg might be broken but everything else about Gadsby is in immaculate working order.

Palladium, to tomorrow, lwtheatres.co.uk

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