As Madeleine Stewart says, it's not easy being a one-handed person in a two-handed world. Performed as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, So Brave is a witty look at life through the lens of a disabled woman searching for love. No stone is left unturned as Stewart gets political, philosophical and sexual in a show that has plenty of laughs but is also a critical commentary on our society.
Stewart has a wonderful presence on stage and her storytelling immediately warms the audience. While she begins with one liners and zingers about her disability, including a resemblance she has to a certain American actor, she sets the scene well about being a woman trying to find love (and lust) in a society that is determined to keep reminding her she is different.Stewart's frustrations at the stupid questions or misconceptions that she faces because of her disability are cleverly expressed, including being asked how she has sex. We hear anecdotes involving her family, including her stepfather Steve, who provides some endearing and heart-warming moments for the show while still keeping the laughs coming. Stewart focuses on the more serious side of things too, including her concerns around disabled people being coerced into considering themselves a burden to others, and the violence (including sexual) that disabled women face on a regular basis.
However, the show would benefit from finding its story and could be done by undertaking a deeper exploration of these latter topics. So Brave covers a lot of ground but there isn't a build up or a moment of realisation that makes stand-up comedy stand out from the pack. There are instances where Stewart mentions life moments or important ideas and values but these need to be dissected more, such as when she shares with us a conversation that her mother had with her brother when he started seeing a disabled partner. It is a missed opportunity for Stewart to really highlight the stigmatisation and segregation that disabled people feel, especially when it's coming from their own family. This doesn't mean taking the laughs out of the show but perhaps finding room for these moments to be interspersed within the humour and jokes that So Brave is laced with.
As Stewart tells us, she may have been born limb deficient, but that is not holding her back from living her life. The other thing that Stewart was born for was to be on stage. She is a refreshing and exciting voice to the comedy circuit and there is much promise as to where it will take her. Hopefully back to Melbourne many times.
Venue: Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt St, Soutbank
Season: until 10 April, Tue - Sat 6:45pm, Sun 5:45pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: $29 Full | $24 Concession | $22 Tightarse Tuesday
Bookings: Melbourne International Comedy Festival