Abby is hilarious and adorable. She has an infectious energy which makes you want to be her best friend. Throughout the show she talks about taking roles in shows which she didn’t particularly want, just because she really wanted to ‘make some new friends’. You can feel the whole audience being like ‘Gurl! Pick me!’ The greatest strength of this show is Abby’s inherent likeability.
It’s refreshing to watch standup comedy which doesn’t rely on crassness, or cruelty. Instead, Abby makes us laugh at with her earnestness and awkwardness. She finds those funny moments in nostalgia and vulnerability, and never turns to snark to get a laugh. It’s not often that you see a standup show that is just as delightful as it is funny. It’s the breath of fresh air that we didn’t even know we needed.
HarleQueen does have a serious message -- fuck the patriarchy. As we get to know the stories of famous female comedians, and Abby’s own story, a disturbing trend emerges. So many of these women had their careers cut off at the knees when they dared to become as successful as their male colleagues. They faced struggles which had nothing to do with the quality of their comedy, and everything to do with their gender.
Abby tells a story of trying to perform stand up while the audience chanted ‘take off your clothes’. It was experiences like this which led Abby to stop performing stand up. It hurts to think that Abby’s story is not uncommon. Women in comedy have to jump over these extra hurdles, and it’s sobering to think of the comedy greats that have been lost because they couldn’t handle this treatment. HarleQueen is Abby’s chance to return to comedy on her own terms, and to do it in her own way. We should be thankful for her bravery.
HarleQueen is delightful, educational, meaningful, and most of all, hilarious. I can’t help smiling as I leave the theatre, remembering my own love for comedy. A few years ago I auditioned for Young and Hungry, because I wanted to perform again, after taking a few years off to focus on ‘more serious’ pursuits. I was cast in Atilla the Hun, written by none other than Abby Howells. The story comes full circle, Abby stands on the backs of comedy giants, and she herself becomes a giant that other young woman look up to.
HarleQueen is currently showing at BATS Theatre until Tuesday 5th March. It is part of the Wellington NZ Fringe Arts Festival. To book tickets, visit the BATS Theatre website. To find out more about the Fringe Festival, visit their website.