I have to admit to a degree of bewilderment and surprise at the length of the queue snaking down Henley Beach Road as I arrived at Thebby to witness Fiona O’Loughlin’s last show of her current Gap Year tour.
It was after all, opening night of the Festival, the SuperLoop Adelaide 500 concert was on, as were hundreds of Fringe events, and it was a night where the thermometer in my car was telling me it was still over forty degrees as the eight o’clock showtime was looming, and yet Adelaideans were fronting up in huge numbers to see one of their own simply deliver a few yarns about her tumultuous life of the last few years – much of which would have already been heard in interviews and read on websites and magazines repeatedly since her rebirth after a stint in rehab led to her subsequent career resurrection as a reality TV show star.
There was a palpable wave of love rippling in the air from the audience when O’Loughlin finally hit the stage. Every comic pause, wry aside and self-deprecating comment that followed was met with loud roars of laughter, some of which seemed disproportionate to the level of comic effect the often gentle humour the comedienne was employing was actually aiming for.
Gap Year details O’Loughlin recovery from her nadir, the alcohol induced coma which almost killed her, through rehab and the humbling, and not just a little humiliating, return to live with her parents at fifty two years of age. She also tells of the loving care and support she received from her siblings, and recounts her ‘phoenix rising’ moment as she is invited to compete, and ultimately taste victory, as a participant in I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.
Part of O’Loughlin’s appeal, apart from the ‘local girl struggles, but succeeds’ angle, is her ability to transcend the fact she is playing to a packed theatre and make it seem like she is just one of your closest friends informally shooting the breeze. There is no real sense of ego on show, hence no presumed barrier between storyteller and avid listener. She comes across as, for the most part, honest and generous of spirit, although just like when we talk to our friends, some occasional cattiness and the odd sharp putdown sneak out. There is a relationship of trust clearly evident in the interaction of both parties.
I smiled quite a few times throughout the show, but belly laughs just didn’t seem to come for me – but Blind Freddy could see I was the odd one out in this respect.
O’Loughlin knows her audience well and they totally accept her for who she is.
And, just like at a family get together, such as a wedding, funeral or at Christmas dinner, it doesn’t matter whether the stories you are hearing are being told for the first time, or the hundredth, it’s part of the ritual of reunion that we all accept, and is a concession we are happy to make to love and appreciation.
It’s also nice to know that there are so many good people in Adelaide who are prepared to make such an effort to get out and catch up with an old friend.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Fiona O’Laughlin – Gap Year was performed at the Thebarton Theatre on Friday 1 March, 2019.