Review: From Here to Infirmity—Sue Ingleton’s Love Letter to Herself4 April 2018
Featured at the La Mama Courthouse, Sue Ingleton’s From Here to Infirmity stirs the pot on comedy, celebrating a career performed for decades in the field and what it means to perform comedy in the modern day.
From the get-go, Ingleton is performing before the doors open, mingling in the crowd in a personality developed 36-years ago: Bill. A loud, obnoxious and ‘selflessly’ selfish man, he interrupts the acknowledgment of country before banging on about his performance and standing aggressively close to her female stage crew. The performance hadn’t even begun and Ingleton was creating waves.
Once inside, Ingleton displayed pictures of her comedy awards and featured titles throughout her long career, as she discussed her show and what it means to her. She discussed Bill (all while still in character) as the “first pregnant man the world had ever known!” referring to her time performing as Bill while pregnant with her first child. Ingleton weaves personal stories of her children in from the perspective of the aggressively masculine Bill, highlighting the distinction between the sexes and parenting. Bill laments about his daughter at one stage however, “she grew a brain and became a feminist.” His gripes with ‘chick beer’, vegans, and modern-day feminism reflected the very real attitudes of many people that all of us have met; he is everyone’s weird uncle/boss/family friend. At times Bill’s gender politics made us squirm uncomfortably in our seats; perhaps he was at times too close to reality. His evening ended with a disappointing sex toy, a stash of women’s lingerie, and plenty of laughs.
Travelling then from Bill to elderly Edith, an elderly old woman with a wicked sense of humour and a devilish interest in sex, Ingleton highlights her own comfortability with her acting and the crowd as she seamlessly moves from one personality to the other. Edith sits astride audience members and pokes fun in nimble ways like a grandma at Christmas dinner, drawing laughs from the audience’s sense of believability. Highlights included “if you want to get your mind off your problems, wear tight shoes” and “I don’t feel anything until 12 and then it’s time for my nap” (which, like, same). Edith was the most poignant character for us of the night. In particular, at one point she said: “You thought I was a boring heterosexual old woman! Well I’m not!” We often think of the older generation as buttoned-up and sexless, which, as tonight’s show made clear, they absolutely are not.
Finally, Ingleton draws one more character from within: Gemma. Arguably the most confronting of her characters, she jumps out at the crowd as bougie, uncomfortably naïve and obsessively stylistic. Evoking memories of the ‘vodka aunt’ stereotype, Gemma highlights one of Australia’s particular brands of benevolent racist, the rich cultural tourist. Ingleton dresses Gemma with a higher cultural knowledge however, drawing out tropes of the rich meeting the poor and endlessly taking from the cultures they encounter.
It is in Ingleton’s very nature that she is unbelievably unquestioning of her own morals and ethics, even though she states often offensive and confronting things, that she has found her niche. Stepping into a role that shakes the audience and not taking a moment to consider what she has said before moving forward is in her delight, Ingleton forces the audience to think for themselves.
Aggressive feminism, blow-up sex dolls and a ‘two Muslims hugging’ chair are all features that Ingleton wields as she challenges the audience to question societal tropes on topics like sexism in the modern day, domestic violence, voluntourism and religion. Ultimately, however, Ingleton’s crowning ability is to get a response from the audience so strong they question why they’re laughing, and then carry forth into her performance.
From Here to Infirmity is playing at La Mama as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival until 8 April.