Review – Laura Davis: Cake in the Rain

3 April 2017

I’d love to pretend this review is objective, but that would be lying. I’ve been a huge fan of Laura Davis’ since her show Ghost Machine, at the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I was in a fairly dark place at the time and attended the show more for a distraction than anything else. But by the end of the show, I was sobbing openly in the middle of the audience.

That probably doesn’t make her work sound particularly, well, funny. But it is. It’s really, really hysterically funny. But it’s also raw, starkly honest and absolutely heartbreaking.

This year’s show, Cake in the Rain, was actually quite similar to Ghost Machine. Laura may have abandoned the ghost costume, but it’s back in the same odd basement art gallery at ten o’clock at night with walls lined with paintings she warned us were worth a couple of grand each – prompting me and my friend to leave a seat between us and the wall, afraid of even breathing on it. It was an oddly appropriate venue for a comedy performance which frequently resembles an existential crisis live on stage. The mazelike bathrooms and the emergency exit which led only to a room full of cabbages just sort of fit.

Laura’s comedy is intensely personal. She started one story by admitting that she still wasn’t sure if it was a joke or a secret. Sharing personal information is the bread and butter of many stand-up comics, but Laura’s discussion of her compulsive suicidal ideation is perhaps a step further than most would go. The specificity and intimacy of her work is what makes it so wonderful, even if it will perhaps always keep it underground – figuratively speaking, since she did make it out of the basement and into ACMI for last year’s Marco. Polo. It’s probably the sort of comedy that will be ten people’s favourite thing, instead of a hundred people’s tenth favourite thing. But it’s also the sort of comedy that could be life-saving for those ten people.

Because for dark, existential work, in which she talks about mental illness, her ‘sex curse,’ and dealing with the general sense that the world is crumbling around us – it’s strangely hopeful. You might go in paralysed by fear at the idea of the future, but you’ll leave reminded that trees are great and that there are sausages in the fridge. Which is enough for the moment.

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