Martha McBrier: Japanese Boy

★★★
comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Martha McBrier
Published 19 August 2016

Others have noted that mental illness is a recurring theme in comedy shows this year, suggesting the redemptive nature of humour in managing widespread but misunderstood conditions. Martha McBrier’s show recounts her time working in a day hospital for people with a variety of diagnoses, and draws on the kinds of blunt and necessary humour that leaven such experiences. The narrative focuses on a team pool competition she encourages attendees at the centre to participate in. But this is merely a conceit enabling her to humanise those stigmatised by society, and the whole show encourages an inclusive and understanding approach to such conditions.

And what a storyteller she is. Clearly at home in a cramped venue, she’s a skilled narrator not averse to mocking the audience. It’s a rough and ready show, whose blunt edges align neatly with the tale being told. Jokes are raucous and rude, and well delivered. A reenactment of a day centre disco goes on a little too long, but still evidences her talent at character comedy. There’s a message here about the differences between love and care, even if the two sometimes overlap. She rejects some forms of treatment as nonsense, and clearly has views on how best such people are supported. And in the insistence on confronting an audience with a social problem it’s all too easy to ignore, the show has pointed political purpose.