REVIEW: Savage: Alice Fraser (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Matt Baker

Alice Fraser

[Pain into Love]

Last night I couldn’t help but fall in love. Alice Fraser’s show for the New Zealand International Comedy Festival may be titled Savage, by the Australian comedian, with an ever-ready puckish smile and gleam in her eye, is anything but. Circumnavigating a serendipitous encounter, Fraser breaks down a few societal constructs, as well as some personal ones, with a quietly introspective allure that would calm even the most chaotic mind.

Fraser’s philosophical intellect, as fostered by her impressive academic education and literary charm, is matched only by the inherent good that permeates her as a performer. Even in moments of satirical aggression or dismissiveness, Fraser never comes across as a bitter or resentful person, though she has arguable reasons to be. Instead, she chooses a more productive path and turns pain into love. Funny, albeit occasionally blackly comedic, love.

Her cadence is considered to the point where she’ll pause, not for effect, but to ensure her words reflect the clarity of her own thought process. This is aided by the narrative flow of the story, which itself is relatively concise, as Fraser effortlessly leads us down tangential paths, returning to the crux of the show before you even notice you’ve left it. Fraser is not just a comedian. She is a story-teller and philosopher, but so subtle yet poignant in her execution of the latter that it never feels polemic, even when she directly addresses her interpretation and understanding of topics as loaded as faith.

The opening night audience barely filled the first two rows of the Basement Studio, and while Fraser deserves full houses, the proximity generated a genuinely intimate performance. Not that Fraser requires limited numbers to arrive at affecting ends. She is sincerely connected to her audience, and at times it feels like you’re the only person in the room to whom she’s speaking.

Fraser also gives her audience permission to laugh, which, while may read as arrogant, is actually the most generous offer she can make when considering the weight to her subject matter – the punch-line to her TED Talk story being a perfect example. So if you’re after some laughs, some stories, and some philosophical musings, there’s no reason not to attend Savage this comedy festival. You may even get a hug out of it at the end.

Savage is performed by Alice Fraser is plays at the Basement Studio until May 7 as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival 2016. For details see Comedy Festival.

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