Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Review: Fern Brady: Power and Chaos

7 June 2019

Scottish comic Fern Brady returns to Melbourne in 2019 for her second appearance at the MICF with her show Power and Chaos, following last year’s Suffer, Fools! and a successful year on the London circuit. Many Aussies would know Fern from her explosive Live at the Apollo set last year, where she came out as bisexual live on air and infuriated the notoriously homophobic Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. It probably didn’t help that she accused their leader of being a closeted lesbian.

Fern’s antics have earned her a dedicated following in the UK scene and abroad, and her MICF audience was predictably excited to see what she had to offer for the follow-up.

While she opens with the predictable and reliably-funny Scottish/Aussie comparison comedy, Fern soon sets herself apart with a skillful dissection of the Scottish national psyche. This quickly becomes a running theme; Power and Chaos dives deep into stories of mental illness and sexuaity with an authenticity that’s sorely lacking from the overtly-political & clap-comic crowd.

The sincerity of the set was a refreshing change of pace. Fern doesn’t try to disguise the cracks in her comedic facade, she uses them to develop the show. I’ve never a comic read off their hand without killing the flow, but Fern’s performance somehow becomes more impactful when things don’t go to plan.

And it’s the subtle things that do it best. Fern’s accent grows progressively stronger over the course of the hour-long show. She drains an entire water bottle without even thinking about it. She narrates her mistakes and somehow makes it an endearing compliment to the pace and themes of the set.

I highly recommend Power and Chaos to anyone tired of the shock-driven, largely male-voiced style that has defined comedy for so long. Fern Brady never pretends to be anything other than what she is; an imperfect hipster comic and a mentally ill ex-goth. There’s no pretension here, just a rock-solid set that has an enormous amount to offer anyone who can relate to her experiences (and plenty for those that can’t).

I’d advise against going into this gig too drunk. I grew up in a Scottish household and I still had to concentrate when Fern’s accent started getting stronger. By the hilarious set-piece conclusion, a non-native speaker could be forgiven for not realising she was speaking English. Not that anyone in the audience cared.

Go in: sober or tipsy, without preconceptions or expectations

For fans of: authenticity, the struggles of sexuality & mental illness, Scottish accents

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