After a successful run in the UK, Felicity Ward brings her hour-long set Busting a Nut to the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Across the hour, Ward delivers joke after joke, exploring topics as varied as her recent marriage, her in-laws, hot yoga, karaoke, and inspirational Instagram quotes. Ward broaches these topics in her typical, high-energy style, with her bold wardrobe (complete with leopard-print leggings) accentuating her bold stage personality.
Despite the quality of many of the jokes, and the high energy that Ward delivers throughout the set (an energy particularly palpable in her more physical gags, like her mockery of Olympic walking), the whole performance lacks a certain cohesion. There are no big themes, nor a big story to tie the anecdotes together, and transitions between jokes often feel weak or undeveloped. The set can come to feel like a collection of isolated jokes, as opposed to a fully developed singular work.
Furthermore, despite the set being only an hour long, some jokes felt slightly laboured and overplayed – an extensive gag regarding a fart sound springs immediately to mind, as does a long segment about the behaviour of drunk girls at nightclubs.
Despite this, the show shines in certain moments. References to the stresses of marital life are particularly entertaining and also feel genuine. Relatable stories of her mother-in-law’s obsession with stockpiling supplies and keeping the family preposterously well fed also stand out as highlights. Additionally, whilst the show is generally very light in tone, Ward also manages to touch on some heavier themes, especially her struggles with mental health (which have been talking points throughout her stand-up career). She also briefly but wittily tackles slut shaming in a segment that also explores the liberation and anxiety that comes with wearing red lipstick.
Overall the show seems to lack some greater theme or narrative that would make it more satisfying and cohesive. However ultimately Ward delivers a solid set, sure to make most audience members laugh, which successfully holds together by her energetic stage persona.
Felicity Ward’s Busting a Nut runs in The Melbourne International Comedy Festival at Melbourne Town Hall from 28 March — 21 April 2019.