Douglas Review – Hannah Gadsby’s Triumphant Return

Hannah Gadsby Douglas

How do you build on a success like Nanette? Ever since that career-defining Netflix special dropped, Hannah Gasby’s fans and critics have been wondering. Douglas is the answer. Gadsby’s new show combines the principles behind Nanette – radical honesty and empathy – with new, side-splittingly funny material.

The show is opened by Grace Petrie, a self-described socialist, lesbian, and protest singer. Though an unexpected addition, Petrie wins Glasgow over with her left-wing politics and dapper style. Her four songs set the tone for the evening perfectly – political, humane, optimistic.

Gadsby herself is met with immediate applause. Though she has previously performed in Edinburgh, this is her first time in Glasgow. Her intuitive grasp of the divide between Scotland’s cities cemented her place in our hearts. It feels amazing that a room full of Glaswegians is united by our shared love for an autistic, butch lesbian. More amazing still that hundreds of people have congregated together in the year 2019 and nobody is looking at their phone. After the initial separation anxiety fades, it’s enough to simply be present and take in an incredible show.

With Douglas, Gadsby is at the height of her comic prowess. She spins yarn after yarn, connecting the threads of each joke so deftly that it looks effortless. It is impossible not to find delight in Gasby’s seamless transitions. You cannot help but marvel over how expertly she weaves each theme together until the picture is complete.

Douglas is a truthful, funny show that will forever change your perspective on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A perfect blend of jokes and cultural commentary, Gadsby once more pushes the boundaries of comedy by expanding the genre into something altogether more heartfelt and humane than the most visible men in the business (*cough*Louis CK*cough) could ever be capable of producing.

Like Wanda Sykes, another lesbian comic whose career reached new heights through a Netflix special, Gadsby’s set is free from cruelty. The targets of Douglas all have three things in common – they’re white, they’re male, and they’re powerful. There are no cheap shots at minorities. Whether it’s Doctor Dickbiscuit (*not his real name) , whose sexist snap judgments put Hannah’s health at risk, or the entitled douche in the dog park who just wants her to smile, Gadsby only takes aim at deserving targets.

There is one ugly moment. When tickets for Douglas went on sale, it was announced that the performance would be ‘phone free’. Everybody is handed a Yondr case as we enter the theatre. Gadsby is autistic, and the glare of screens within a darkened room creates an unnecessary challenge for her. So when a woman turns on her phone during the performance, security tries to escort her out.

Spotting the conflict, Hannah pauses the show to ask what’s going on. Phone Woman says she’s checking the time since she forgot to bring a watch. “I guess it’s time to get the fuck out”, quips Hannah, with a comedian’s lightning reflexes. But then – displaying the compassion for which her work is famed – Gadsby asks security to let Phone Woman sit down and watch the rest of the show.

Critics claimed that Nanette was more lecture or monologue than traditional comedy. And perhaps they were right. But this ability to mingle different styles of communication, making something that’s uniquely hers, is Gadsby’s greatest strength. Instead of shying away from these comments, she leans into them. There is even a glorious PowerPoint presentation on art history that’s as educational as it is funny. Gadsby’s sharp observational humor will leave audiences asking questions about the male gaze long after she walks off stage.

If you haven’t managed to get tickets for the Douglas tour, there is good news: when Gadsby brings her show to the United States, it will be recorded as a Netflix special. And if you see Douglas performed live, you’re going to watch again when it airs. Hannah Gadsby is unmissable.