Celia Pacquola’s rise to prominence on the small screen has been pretty consuming over the last two years or so, with Rosehaven and Utopia being major chunks of the ABC’s comedy line up. So that means the Comedy Theatre is pretty close to full of fans, maybe some coming to see, (as Pacquola says): “that nice girl from the ABC talking about Tasmania and infrastructure”.
Well, if you have, you’re going to get so much more. This show is deeply personal and affecting, as much as it is really funny. And at times it’s not very nice.
Parts of the show revolve around self-deprecating humour similar to say, Judith Lucy or Fiona O’Loughlin, mining the rich seam of material about making bad decisions made whilst drinking. Two beer Celia is a confident comedy queen; six beer Celia is a whole different proposition.
It’s from here that the underlying theme of her show takes shape. Pacquola wants to talk about and around her experiences in 2017 when she was professionally riding high, while personally crashing into a morass of anxiety and depression.
Pacquola is very personable, even when she’s talking about quite tough issues, so it never feels tricky or preachy.
She manages to do this by taking us on a journey of hilarious stories, nearly all poking fun at herself in one way or another, that iterate the points she is making. It’s great to see such honesty, to be able to point out the contrast between doing so well in one area of her life but ignoring the warning signs and letting her mental health spiral out of control. This happens to nice people too.
One of the great misapprehensions of people who don’t suffer from these problems is that there is a cause from events and actions in one’s life and that isolating and treating those causes will solve the problem.
What I took from Pacquola’s beautifully vulnerable performance is that this is often not true, and that monitoring and taking care of oneself is mandatory for sufferers who want to manage it well. You can be at the top of your game and a mess simultaneously without there being any discernible cause.
There are some great side paths in the show including the #metoo movement which she handles with sincerity and a lack of pretence. She deals with this phenomenon through her own experiences of abuse and her poor decisions. Her focus is as much as informative as it is funny and that makes a terrific balance.
It’s hard to expose one’s private self to the world in comedy without moving to self-parody or extremes. You get the feeling that won’t happen to Pacquola who will keep finding new topics and ways to be funny.
I loved seeing her show and so, it seemed, did everyone else in the audience. She did not strike a false note all night, showing us that all talk is sometimes as good as action.