Friday 30 March 2018

Identity Steft - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

I am, you are, we are Austr - hang on a second. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be an Aboriginal person living in Australia, Steph Tisdell has got you covered. Her comedy show, Identity Steft, takes a look at racism, white guilt and identity in Australia through the eyes of the Funniest Aboriginal Woman in Australia.

Tisdell is quite affable on stage, which is a good thing considering she spends the opening of her show getting acquainted with her audience. It's just as important for her to find out who her audience is as it is for the audience to find out who she is. She covers a lot of ground in her show but unfortunately Identity Steft suffers from a lack of focus and structure that ultimately makes it feel disjointed. Tisdell touches on the aforementioned issues but she never she never seems to drive her point home or make any bold statements about the realities of being an Aboriginal person living in Australia.

Her rap about Aboriginal lives and the way she brings the audience in to participate is executed well. The fact that it forces us to consider how complicit we have been in the treatment of Aboriginal people while also making us laugh is the highlight of this show. There are further funny moments in the show but the ones that emphasise the relationship between Aboriginal people and white Australians are far more memorable. A great example is when Tisdell discusses how Migaloo, an all-white humpback whale living in Australian waters, and Moomba festival received their names, and so touching on the ignorance of white people towards Aboriginal culture and the frustrations felt by Aboriginal people.

However, stories about her boyfriend going raccoon hunting and a certain type of cheese that should perhaps look at changing its name, feel incomplete. Similarly, Tisdell's discussion about being medicated for anxiety and her pica disorder are forgotten about almost as quickly as they are mentioned. There are no strong links tying these in with the bigger picture which hampers the flow of the show.

Tisdell no doubt has the stories and the experiences of what being an Aboriginal person living in Australia is really like. Putting these together into a consistent narrative thread would draw the audience in and leave a much bigger impact on them. In its current form, Identity Steft seems uncertain as to what its own identity is. 

Click here to read my interview with Steph Tisdell

Venue: Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Season: until 8 April | Tues - Sat 8.00pm, Sun 7:00pm
Length: 50 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full |
$20 Tightarse Tuesday and Conc
Bookings: MICF website

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