Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Thao Thanh Cao
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
Thao originally wanted to be an actress but was disheartened because she didn’t see many Asians on TV. The only time she saw a lot of Asians on TV was on Border Security or Bondi Rescue. So she gave up her dream and decided to give stand-up comedy a go.
“Do you remember the first time a man hit on you?” is the opening line of Thao Thanh Cao’s solo show. It’s a curious and direct question, which sets the tone for the almost one hour performance. This is a coming of age story and Thao tells us about her experiences as a young Asian woman growing up in Australia from her observations of people and their reactions to someone who looks different. Told through brief anecdotes and comedy, the first topic is discrimination.
Thao’s demeanour and low-key delivery are interesting – especially for the subject matter she tackles. Her restrained manner is beguiling and edgy, always vital and she makes her points of view effectively. She understands the power of eye contact and uses subtle facial expressions such as a slight tilt of the head or a sneaky smile that speak volumes. Complicity develops between Thao and the audience that provides a flow and rhythm to her stories and humour.
In one segment Thao describes multiple personalities, then in a stream of consciousness type of storytelling describes experiences with several of life’s “isms” – all very funny and alive. Natural and honest, Thao has a fascinating way of intertwining issues of today in creative ways. For example, she breaks into fragments of song, or impersonates those closest to her with intelligent reasoning. Comparisons of her Vietnamese culture with Australian ways of doing things are rapid fire and vividly drawn – and then she gives a witty lesson about her spoken languages.
When she is choosing a career Thao is quickly made aware of the dearth of Asian role models in her life and surroundings. She is looking for answers and with her combination of naiveté and steely determination she develops short imaginative skits with characters and physicality to motivate her to improve her life choices – as well as to explore the topic of comedy and logic, where she comes into her own.
Thao develops a rapport with the audience early in the show, which continues throughout. There is a mutual empathy between her and the audience, as evidenced by the reactions. She deftly sprinkles humour, fast paced comments, deadpan one-liners and cynical charm. Thao fast becomes a new best friend – with personable whacky logic, comedy and sharp one-liners. This show is recommended – go see!