Lemons. Robots. Voluptuous. Cage fighting. Obliquely. These and other words and phrases are pinned up around the stage, and over the course of her show Alice Fraser works all of them into her act – sometimes seamlessly, sometimes more obviously. Similarly, some of the complex, personal concepts in her act fit in perfectly, while others, well, not so much.
After a quick warm-up from Sydney comedian Matty B and his stoner drawl, Alice comes out, armed with a banjo. But after a first quick song it retires for most of the show, for it’s a show for speaking rather than singing – a show about words and how we use them, Alice says, as well as life, death, feminism and other serious topics.
And there are some very serious topics in this show, especially about Alice’s relationship with her mother, suffering from MS since before Alice was born. But they’re expertly countered by less serious jokes about bus stalking, anal bleaching, English around the world, women’s magazines, the second half of popular sayings, Germans, robots and losing all your consonants.
Alice is at her best when her material is genuine and heartfelt, whether it’s funny or not – and some of the material about her mother and family is truly heartbreaking. But the balance between tragedy and comedy is strong; she has a gift for bringing things to a serious point, letting the point linger and sink in and then tearing back to the laughs again to leave you gasping.
Word Crime is not perfect; it’s a show that starts strong but starts to feel rushed and a bit didactic towards the end. But even when flawed, it’s intelligent, compelling and occasionally achingly sad while at the same time very funny. With only two shows left in the Festival, you’ll have to rush if you want Alice Fraser to break your heart – and then maybe sew it back up again.
Alice Fraser in Word Crime is on at the Butterfly Club, 6pm on 16th and 17th April.