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After the serious shows that made her name, the comedian is in playful mood here, recounting her courtship with and marriage to her producer
Body of Work is “a feelgood show”, Hannah Gadsby tells us. Its predecessors, the smash hits Nanette and Douglas, shot the Tasmanian to stardom – but weren’t all smiles. Her latest, recounting romance and recent marriage to her producer Jenney Shamash, arrives with a lighter, looser vibe. Even looser than intended, perhaps. Gadsby enters in a wheelchair, having broken her leg on a trip to Iceland. That poleaxed her European tour, and restricted recent gigs to venues with adequate disability access. So “I haven’t done this very much”, she tells us: the show might be a little rough and unready.
By the end, as Body of Work ambled towards the two-hour mark, I could see Gadsby’s point. In a show that makes much of the distinction between storytelling and merely listing things that happened (Gadsby’s dad is apparently a poor raconteur), I missed the structural rigour of her earlier offerings. And yet, this is still a delightful set, the more so for finding the 44-year-old in such happy, playful form. Gadsby hates romcoms, she tells us – but delivers one here, after a fashion, covering her courtship with “Jenno”, flashing back to her relationship history (drolly characterised less as “baggage”, more as a tangle of tote bags), then depicting the pair’s life as a couple, with Jenno smoothing the autistic, perimenopausal, post-famous Gadsby’s path into domesticated middle age.
Post-famous? One section reflects on how poorly prepared Gadsby was when celebrity came calling, and how she “fucked it up” via socially maladroit encounters with Jodie Foster and Richard Curtis. After criticising him for broadcasting Dave Chappelle’s transphobic special, there’s a tirade too against Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, which she suspects might burn any remaining bridges to global stardom.
As that routine suggests, Gadsby’s spikiness hasn’t deserted her. But Body of Work foregrounds her homely side, as she tells her tale of new love (with droll reference to the bizarre romantic standards of heterosexuals) and conjures her parents to vividly eccentric life. If momentum dwindles towards the end, this remains a winning return for Gadsby, to whose heavy-hitting accomplishments can now be added a flair for comedy with a light heart.