Lisa Sharpe has been experiencing IWS: short for ‘invisible women syndrome’. This is the phenomenon whereby women after a certain age begin to disappear from view. Apparently, being invisible to society is great for the grocery shopping budget and turns conflicts on the road into a compliment.
Taking the stage for her comedy show Roar, Sharpe was certainly both present and visible. Roar ran as part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2023 down in Prahran, with the MC Showroom being transformed into a boxing ring as the framing device for Sharpe’s anecdotal comedy set.
The metaphor of boxing as a representation of life–a repetitive cycle of being knocked over and getting back up–was both unique and incredibly apt, allowing for a tightly constructed, well-written show. Following the format of a boxing match, Roar was split into six ‘rounds’, setting the thematic parameters for each section of the show.
Starting with Sharpe’s experiences with body image and circling back to her at the end, the show was also a tribute to the people in her life with two sections on her mother and one each on parenting and her partner. Anecdotal comedy is won and lost on the quality of the delivery and the way mundane events and conversations get repackaged into a little funny tale. Sharpe has a true gift for comedic storytelling, and she keeps us laughing with perfectly executed tone, scene-setting, character construction and funny voices for each and every anecdote. The struggle of Sharpe’s mother on the phone was a particular highlight, where scenario after scenario she kept the audience laughing in sympathy and glee. Despite being presented as a series of “battles”, it was clear that these stories came from a place of utmost goodwill. To me, Roar was impressively grounded in the sprawl of suburban and rural Australia, as well as our connections to each other. Sharpe took us up and down the East Coast: from the Gold Coast where a son needed help picking an outfit for court to Balina where a group of elderly women in red shirts called themselves the Babblers (guess what they do); on long drives through heat waves, trapped in a car without air conditioning.
The vibes were simply splendid on that particular Thursday night, which did include Sharpe’s mother of anecdotal fame (her shoutout earned a deserved round of applause). The small room was a buzzing conduit for laughter and good humour, perhaps in part due to the conversational quality that Sharpe often hit on for her deliveries. At the beginning, Sharpe recruited various audience members to step into the show and help facilitate the “boxing match”–something that kept us constantly involved, whether people were looking around at each other or dashing up onto the stage to display the card for the next round. Later, Sharpe even led us through the chorus of an original song teaching us about the Babblers (they walk, by the way–but they’re more talk than walk) and their extensive internal vocabulary. It helped, of course, that the show was funny and engaging throughout.
Roar was a bundle of laughs tied with life and a full heart. In her introductory segment, Sharpe jokingly compared boxing to comedy, with the potential to be knocked over and flash a tit. It’s no small feat to step forward onto a stage, especially in a society that does enjoy ignoring that your entire age demographic of women exists. As a much younger person still languishing in university, it was wonderful to catch a glimpse of what I can only hope will be a long and adventurous path ahead, carried by love for the ridiculousness of the people around me.