Hannah Gadsby – Nanette

This isn't a comedy show, it's raw storytelling. I've never left a stand-up hour needing to go and have a private little cry in the venue toilet before, but Gadsby leaves you feeling overwhelmed, humbled, and very, very angry.

Go see Gadsby while you can

It doesn't start off like this though. For the first thirty minutes or so, Gadsby talks about herself, her upbringing, and her career. She is unaffected and effortlessly interesting, and tells us without apology that this is her last ever comedy show. The script goes on to interweave her explanation for leaving (and with her success, it certainly is choosing to leave, not ‘quitting’) with tangential sets, including material on un-nannyish nans, social media rants, and bald babies. The audience warms to her candid and wry self-analysis, and she receives unreserved laughs whenever she asks for them.

But Gadsby is not there to simply jerk our laughter reflexes. She is an angry philosopher, thinking deeply about the purpose of comedy and aware of its shortcomings even as she displays a knack for executing it's mechanics.

Gadsby knows about the power of stories on our everyday lives, on our relationships, and on the way we understand our personal identities. A set about studying history of art is witty and inventive, but it is more a homily than a vehicle for gags. She flows between sets with conversational effortlessness, but by the conclusion of the hour we come to realise how tightly crafted her ideas are.

Jokes, she tells us, are not a useful vehicle for storytelling: they don't have a beginning, middle, and end, just a set up and a punchline. To Gadsby a ‘punch’ line is analogous to trauma - trying to have the most impact in the least time, but not allowing space for healing, or catharsis, or scars. It's not healthy or useful for her story – a story we should all hear. As a comic, one must ‘artificially inseminate’ ideas with tension, in order to resolve that tension and make the room laugh. You can't laugh at a story if you haven't set up the tension and relief in the right way. Gadsby proves herself a master of creating this tension, and forcing us to hold it, to feel it, to be aware of it.

It's a powerful goodbye (or ‘fuck off’) to the comedy world; go see Gadsby while you can. 

Reviews by Lily Lindon

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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The Blurb

Winner: 2017 Best Show, Melbourne International Comedy Festival. 'Hello, I have another show for you. It's inspired by a woman called Nanette. Although we didn't exchange a single word or even a glance, Nanette has changed my life. She hasn't, but she did prompt me to think about some things, and those things I thought have become this show.' Hannah has embraced solitude, determined to see what harvest comes from nurturing her life, and what a strange little harvest it is. ‘Warmth, candour, intelligence and so many, many laughs' ***** (Scotsman). A show for proper adults.

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