Informative, Spirited, Lots of Laughs

22 Nov Informative, Spirited, Lots of Laughs

Nelson Arts Festival 2015
presented by NOTORIOUS*at Nelson Musical Theatre, 95 Atawhai Dr, The Wood, Nelson
23 Oct 2015
[1 hr]

Reviewed by Ro Cambridge, 24 Oct 2015


 Michele A’Court has a talent to amuse. This much is clear from her long career in the media and in comedy.  But who knew she also had a talent to instruct? The Nelson Arts Festival crowd who fill the quaint Nelson Musical Theatre to see her hour-long, one-woman show are happily amused and instructed in equal measure.

Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter is framed as a light-hearted look at the life-skills you should pass on to your daughter before she leaves home. You learn for example what stops your tights snagging and what not to do if you’ve been chopping chillies.

However, the show actually turns out to be a lecture on feminism sandwiched between two slices of stand-up comedy. This makes the whole thing sound more seriously polemical than hilarious and it’s a risky gambit: feminists have a reputation for humourlessness. However A’Court leavens what could have been a leaden loaf by spicing it with a sharp wit and a shrewd though compassionate eye for human foibles.

A’Court turns the stereotype on its tired head to lead a responsive audience on a merry dance with acerbic asides about the Act Party and Paul Henry, wise cracks, ‘dick jokes’; through the first, second and third waves of feminism; into a spirited attack on the inequalities which women still face.

Before A’Court appears on stage – glossy-haired in black tights, embroidered cardigan and a sparkly green skirt – we watch a slide-show of her daughter Molly’s life from chubby-faced baby to teenager trying out the props and costumes of womanhood, and the birth of her own daughter. The effect could have been cloying but it isn’t. The images are personal and yet Molly is also EveryDaughter and Michele is EveryMum.

The slide show continues as a prop throughout the show. Wielding the remote control like the entertaining high school teacher you never had, A’Court flicks through slides which highlight her topics – Sex, Body Image, Youth, Drugs and Alcohol – or illustrates her romp through feminism beginning with the bluestockings of the 18th century.

Along the way we get to watch a film clip of a much younger, bob-haired A’Court in a teen sex education video, rolling a condom onto a very large wooden phallus with nary a flicker of post-modern irony.

A’Court than drags us laughing – via Emily Pankhurst, Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem – into the 21st century by pointing out how even now, women are paid 12% less than men in equivalent work. She’s also got some novel suggestions for righting this wrong very quickly. If you’re a woman and you work a 40 hour week she suggests that all you need to do is … [spoiler averted].

I only wish I’d seen the show before my daughter left home.  Then I would have had a convincing argument for the validity of my maternal advice and admonishment.  A’Court explains it this way: “I have been you, but you haven’t been me. Yet. Therefore, I know things you don’t know. This means you should listen to me.”

Try this reasoning on your wilfully deaf teenage daughter. If it doesn’t work, take her along to Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter instead. Michele A’Court will convince her, and give you both a lot of laughs on the way.