Review By Lisa Lanzi
I have an admission: I’m not usually a fan of live comedy. However this Adelaide Fringe I’ve definitely had a change of heart when it comes to smart women with a lot to say - most recently seeing Lisa Sharpe on her first professional visit to Adelaide with her honest, disarming, and relatable show ROAR.
You’ll go six rounds with this awarded comedy ‘newcomer’ who first faced an audience around the age of 48. This might seem like a late blooming but Sharpe impresses like a seasoned professional. Her comic content is personal and there are moments amongst the many stories that could easily emanate from any woman’s life. The material is unapologetically frank and close to the bone, sometimes stemming from less than happy times, but the genius of the writing keeps the laughs coming.
After the performer’s energetic entrance to (appropriately) Katy Perry, ROAR starts with a shrewd comparison equating comedy with boxing: “Boxing is a lot like stand-up comedy. You enter the ring or stage near naked, exposing yourself, and risk your life, well at least your dignity and integrity”… Sharpe, dressed for the ring, gives us pointers about the structure of the show and a few folk (gender not important) are enlisted as ‘Ring Girls’ to parade a handwritten sign across stage in between ‘rounds’.
Subjects range widely from parents (mostly mothers) to the demands and absurdities of parenting, children and their peccadilloes, partners, body and health issues, and self. The way Sharpe weaves all the threads of her anecdotes reads somewhat like a stream-of-consciousness, improvised ramble but the talent which leads her to makes sense of it all is no accident and obviously the result of much thought and rehearsal. Akin to the metaphor of the swan on a lake, the slightly sardonic, easeful delivery glides along comfortably and we don’t really sense the fierce work beneath the surface. This atmosphere certainly motivates the audience’s attention and we are there for the revelations about what keeps us bouncing back in life after we hit the mat, time and again.
As a woman watching a woman I connected to and appreciated much of the text about mothers and ageing but I suspect any empathic male would be equally entertained. Sharpe wryly announced that she is “part of a social phenomenon called IWS…” (Invisible Women Syndrome) and had many nodding sagely in agreement. The hilarious impressions of Sharpe’s mum had me immediately recalling phone conversations with my own mother; the ones where I heard about absolutely everyone in her circle, most of whom I had never met, plus ALL their intimate associates. It would often end with me imparting almost nothing about my life. Sigh. Art imitates life etc.
Sharpe is a billed as a comedian but is really a gifted story-teller who can garner empathy right alongside the laughter. That her writing is based on personal reality makes it all the more poignant, significant, and effective. Anecdote or witty, sharp one-liner, this woman can deliver. With only two more gigs in Adelaide, I truly hope this Melbourne-based performer will return.