Edinburgh Fringe 2013
When you can’t take the paintings and sculptures you’ve studied at university entirely seriously what direction should your career take? In Hannah Gadsby’s case it became the ideal subject for comedy.
Flicking through the comedy section of the Fringe programme I spied fellow Australian Hannah Gadsby performing two shows this year, her stand-up show and Nakedy Nudes, described as “…the new ART show…about nudes”. My interest was piqued – I studied art history at high school and I like comedy. Sounds like my cup of tea.
In a departure from her previous art gallery walking tours Gadsby has brought the art to the stage in the form of a slide show. This show is listed as comedy, she begins, but the doors have been locked and we are, in fact, attending an art history session about the nude in western art from around 450BC to the early 20th century. Gadsby is, she explains, unquestionably qualified to give the following lecture because firstly, she is wearing a bow tie, and secondly she has a degree in Art History and Curatorship.
On a bare stage with nothing more than a microphone and projection screen the show starts with a look at the “creepy little guys” of art, the cherubs and the putti. Then ducking and diving through Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Medieval, Renaissance and early 20th century paintings and sculptures, we meet heroic nudes (almost entirely men of course!) and Christian iconographic nudes with their naïve virgins and last judgement fresco’s with the ‘saved’ in heaven richly dressed sitting in neat rows and the sinful in hell naked and higgledy piggledy! Next are the couples, the female nude in the form of the Venus and odalisques of Titian & Ingres and finally a very quick and hilarious look at the wardrobe malfunctions.
The effectively written and timed show has a raw energy to it, an off-the-cuff texture that allows Gadsby’s natural humour to shine through, her mischievous take on these art works kept the entire audience smiling, giggling and outright laughing at some of the rather ridiculous inconsistencies found in familiar and “ideal” works of arts.
As Gadsby points out at the very beginning, this show is listed as comedy – and it is, it’s very, very funny – but as an audience we also came away having learnt a hell of a lot. I just wish I’d had Hannah Gadsby as my Art History teacher at high school, I’m positive I’d have aced the exams…and very probably gone on to a career in that field, instead of theatre.
Hannah Gadsby – Nakedy Nudes is an excellent show-with-a-difference and I suggest anyone with an artistic bent, a passion for art galleries, sculpture and the old masters go along.