Hannah Gadsby’s Dogmatic is very different to her usual show. If you’ve seen Gadsby before, you’re probably expecting tales of depression and mental health problems, of Gadsby ruining a relationship or leaving her dishes unwashed for weeks. Terrible stories cloaked in the dry humour of someone who’s grown up learning to disguise her problems with comedy.
Dogmatic, on the other hand, is a ‘synth-pop extravaganza’ based on Taylor Swift’s 1989 world tour (where 1989 is the name of the tour, not the year). Gadsby reassures the audience that there will be NO WOE, it will be a light-hearted show, and reviewers won’t add links to Beyond Blue at the end of their reviews.
Unfortunately, the show is a bit hit and miss. It does fantastically mimic Swift’s tour (based on the small amount I know about her performances). A projector behind Gadsby displays photos and videos of her and her dog Douglas – to mimic the videos Swift plays of her and her cats – which are very cute, except for the mildly demonic one. Gadsby implements costume changes, tying her show together with hilarious props from earlier stories, and picking items just on the edge of her normal grandfatherly style that you don’t even notice how weird it is to wear a spangled jacket over jeans.
Probably the most delightful part of the performance is Gadsby’s dancing, where she promises to not get too into it… then gets into it anyway. Each story (and costume change) is opened by a Taylor Swift song, and the pop tunes are a lot of fun throughout the show.
Gadsby’s comedy also hits a high (well… low) note. Not to say that her stories were bad, but that there were definitely aspects of woe that slipped in, from catching a dog poo while trying to flirt with an attractive woman, to the strange conversations she had with a pair of gay conspiracy theorists while staying in their holiday house. Personally, I really enjoy her woe, terrible though that sounds. Gadsby has brilliant storytelling talent and really hammers in just how awful things were for her, and it’s a rare skill to be that morose and still make people laugh.
On the other hand, the show loses traction towards the end. Gadsby explains that Taylor Swift takes a moment at the end of her show to talk directly to the audience about how perfect and wonderful they are as human beings. It’s at this point that it becomes a bit more difficult to understand for someone unaware of Swift’s popularity and general persona. Gadsby uses her moment-at-the-end-of-her-show to admit she doesn’t actually like Swift at all. She calls her a ‘fake feminist’ and alleges that Swift – a thin, attractive woman with 20/20 vision – can’t possibly be more marginalised and bullied than Gadsby – a fat short-sighted lesbian – and Swift should stop playing people’s heartstrings. It might be a fair enough set of comments, but Dogmatic goes from being a fun show about dancing and funny stories, to being a solid criticism of a performer most people in the audience may not be familiar with.
Gadsby is a great cynic, but I wasn’t really prepared for a tirade about the evils of young Taylor Swift. While her comedic storytelling is fantastic, this show might be a miss for anyone who doesn’t know much about pop music.