Friday 7 April 2023

Baba review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Between February 2020 to August 2022, Joshua Ladgrove was the full-time carer for his 97 year-old Ukrainian grandmother. While death can be a difficult topic to genuinely discuss, particularly in a comedy, Ladgrove has constructed a very clever show in Baba, that pays respect to his baba and the life that she led with a mix of gentle laughs and some fearless comedic choices.

Baba was the best person Ladgrove knew and through his words he easily conveys the warm and loving relationship these two had. Whether he is speaking to us or chatting with his baba, you can see the strong affection in his blue eyes and how even though time heals all, she is still immensely missed.

Ladgrove quickly establishes Baba's presence with a sofa ready for her to sink into, making her a cup of tea and checking that she is warm enough. Of course there is no one else on stage and this is performed for our benefit, but it also highlights the sadness in missing a loved one and remembering the conversations we had and the routines they had, like Baba’s enthusiasm for watching The Bold and the Beautiful.

Many will know Ladgrove as Neal Portenza, his unhinged and no barriers persona for a number of years, and while Baba is Ladgrove on stage as himself, speaking in his own voice, we do see flashes of the daring nature that Neal afforded Ladgrove to bring the laughs in unexpected ways. Ladgrove does not shy away from finding jokes about Baba's time as a forced worker in Germany during World War 2 or her journey to Australia. He displays great skill in linking periods of Baba’s life with contemporary world events that has us connecting with her on a deeper level that we may otherwise not have had the opportunity to do so.

is an emotional show about loss and making sure that the stories of our loves ones are never forgotten. It’s impossible to not think of people you know that have died, recalling their experiences and quirks and those special moments that you had while hearing Ladgrove shares his. Beautifully written and never falling into sentimentality, Baba is a shining example of discovering the laughter in tragedy.


Venue: Melbourne Town Hall, 100 Swanston St, Melbourne
Season: until 23 April | Tues - Sat 9pm, Sun 8pm
Length: 55 minutes
Tickets: $25-32 Full | $27 Conc | $28 Tightarse Tuesday
Bookings: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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