REVIEW: Eamonn Marra: Dignity (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Nathan Joe

[Reaffirm]

Eamonn Marra’s Respite was one of my theatrical highlights a few years back, a profoundly resonant hour of personal storytelling informed by depression and anxiety but often diffused with gentle, observational comedy.

If the previous show was about his struggle with his mental health, Dignity concerns itself with the question of what happens next. But, while his life and circumstances have changed for the better, the intimacy of his performance remains much the same, resembling a friend sharing a story rather than stand-up. With a somewhat nervous demeanour, he can seem like a bundle of exposed nerves, but it only seems to add to a sense of authenticity. He’s the very antithesis of the cocksure comedian and better for it.

Gently poking fun at the notion of stand-up, he opens his set with some prop comedy and animal jokes. It’s intentionally disconnected from the rest of the show, which is more interested in retelling anecdotes and trials of minor and major tribulation, microscoping in on those comedy of the everyday. Despite any amendments and exaggerations made for comic effect, the stories never come across as manufactured or phony.

Marra doesn’t plumb the deep dark depths of the human condition here, but he does find a genuine joy in the very existence of being. Of human connection and misunderstanding and the constant search for silver linings. Whether the subject is St Pierre’s or Subway, working in a job you’re clueless about or chasing strangers, he finds something humanising and reaffirming even in the seemingly mundane.

Eamonn Marra plays The Basement until 28 April.

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