One of the stand-out moments from Hannah Gadsby’s stand-out hour-long show Nanette was her analysis of the use of tension in comedy and how performers can play with audience expectations to cut through a sombre silence and bring everyone together in laughter as a shared, physical relief.
Gadbsy subverted the tool in her acclaimed show, which is now a huge hit on Netflix, leaving a lingering tension that still infects every audience member.
Kiri Pritchard-McLean also knows the importance of tension and the power of a gripping story to engage a room. But she also knows that, for this show, funny comes first, punctuating each, slowly developing part of her riveting narrative with perfect punchlines that create a beautifully balanced hour of laughter, heartbreak and inspiration.
And you will be gripped by that tale, for Kiri, a behind-the-scenes member of acclaimed sketch group Gein’s Family Giftshop, is a gifted storyteller that knows exactly how to dripfeed nuggets of information to keep us wanting to know the next detail of a rather traumatic period of her life.
It is a very relevant story too. In a post #metoo world where shows like Fleabag are wildly (and deservedly) popular, Victim, Complex, shines a light on manipulation and dishonesty in an unhealthy relationship and the very real consequences it can have on mental health.
Gaslighting – convincing someone to doubt their own sanity – came to prominence this year as fellow comedian Seann Walsh hit the headlines for cheating on his girlfriend with his dance partner from Strictly Come Dancing.
His former partner Rebecca Humphries said in an open letter Seann “aggressively, and repeatedly, called me psycho / nuts / mental. As he has done countless times in our relationship when I’ve questioned his inappropriate, hurtful behaviour.”
Kiri’s situation is similar but no less hurtful and personal. And prolonged. It’s a complex story that takes place over a number of years, with Kiri picking out the key details that give context to an unenvious situation.
Not that this is a show of self-pity and wallowing. For Kiri is a confident, bold and colourful woman, stepping out onto the stage in gold leotard and cape and keeping the gag count high and relevant.
There’s tension, yes. But comedy takes precedence. And as an audience, we leave uplifted and inspired. And aware that Kiri is going to be a very huge star indeed.