In this show, Hannah Gadsby takes us through an art history lecture covering the developing representation of the Virgin Mary in Eastern and Western art since the 3rd Century AD. You’re right, it doesn’t sound particularly hilarious but, in this case, you’re mistaken. Mary. Contrary. is highly informative, fascinating and enjoyable with an extraordinary laugh rate. Gadsby has put together a detailed presentation and delivers it with rebellious wit without ever resorting to cheap jokes or immaturity. This show is a gem unlike any other you are likely to see at this year’s Fringe.
Gadsby is endlessly likeable, her relaxed persona making the performance feel like more of a chat with mates rather than a serious discussion about the development of art. There is a childish glee to the show. Laughing at incredible artwork feels naughty, like giggling in church, but the show runs off this energy and reverence and respect is always paid to the art. The electric atmosphere of the performance is easy to get swept up in and the time flies by. The set jumps from slide to slide so rapidly that the performance never stagnates and there was always something that elicited giggles from the audience, whether it was the tattooing habits of the Russian Mafia or the bizarre ways in which artists have decided to depict Mary’s impregnation by the Holy Ghost.
The only disappointment with the show was that there seemed to be far more material than could be covered in an hour which meant that the last five minutes were speedily rushed through, making the performance feel unbalanced and sometimes compromising Gadsby’s comic timing. Nevertheless, the success of the material keeps the show afloat in spite of these timing issues.
On leaving the show I couldn’t help but feel well educated and entertained. Watching Gadsby’s show is time well spent. It is a rare but immensely satisfying thing to feel genuinely informed after a stand-up set and for that alone I suggest you go and see this wonderful production.