‘Beige Bitch’ was monochromatic.
It takes great skill to create genuine comedy from self-deprivation. Finding a good balance between painful truth and belly laughing can be an arduous, demanding task. Thankfully, comedian Emily Carr has risen to the occasion to do exactly this. With a twinkle in her eye and a song in her heart, Carr is set to paint Carlton’s Motley Bauhaus in colour as part of this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. And that colour… is beige.
Emily Carr’s one woman show, ‘Beige Bitch’, is a celebration of self-mediocrity. Framed as a faux self-help class, Carr encourages her audience to embrace their average side. Whether it be considering yourself to be the less favoured sibling in your parents’ eyes or staying in a ‘temporary’ job for several years longer than anticipated, Carr dedicates her show to the hidden virtues of being, well, a little beige.
As guests ascend the staircase to the open stage of the Motley Bauhaus, they are greeted with a taste test of what to expect for the next 60 minutes. An overhead projection of the poster for ‘Beige Bitch’ adorns the back wall. Several inconspicuous props lay scattered across the stage – a suitcase, a chair, a ukulele, and a baseball cap atop a faded blue drum table. Large speakers bookend the stage playing a repetitive melody akin to ‘elevator music’. Each set piece acts as a subtle reminder that theatre as an art form is a sum of its parts. They just need to be linked through storytelling. Enter Carr.
Carr’s anecdotal storytelling relies heavily upon the support of her audio-visual accompaniments. Beginning with a narrated sketch about a mediocre gladiator (illustrated lovingly by Sarah Sivaraman), the visuals relayed across the screen in effect become their own character in Carr’s story. Several sight gags are used to ease the audience into the show’s unique brand of humour to varying degrees of success. A section of the show dedicated to the abundance of meme culture in Australia is arguably the highlight of the filmed component. While not every joke lands with its intended impact, the union of the images with Carr’s knack for comic timing is the real comedic champion.
Furthering this, much of the comedy of ‘Beige Bitch’ is subtly evoked from its use of lighting and sound. The show switches gears continuously between ‘self-help seminar’ and telling the story of the ‘mysterious’ Character X. Carr seamlessly alternates from the humorously patronising health guru to Character X on several occasions, with the support of a (beige coloured) baseball cap.
These sections are equally supported by Carr’s lighting choices. While always keeping to the beige aesthetic of the show’s title, the subtle transition from initial bright lights to more nuanced hues emphasises the eventual acceptance – and embracing – of one’s own mediocrity. Sound Consultant Alex Hines’ choice to use Lady Gaga’s seminal ‘Edge of Glory’ as the theme of each transition is sublime for two reasons. First, for its subtle reference to not yet having reached one’s full potential. And second, as a call back to youthful days of the millennial generation and their search for greatness (or, at the very least, above averageness).
The Character X interludes are where Carr unequivocally shines the brightest. Even in beige. This is in large part thanks to the supportive direction of Jackson McGovern, production assistance of Tiahne Frederic, and Kaitlyn Rogers’ dramaturgy. Each member of the comedic quartet brings a wealth of experience in, and passion for, the comedy of everyday life. While X is solely one character, the audience as a whole will empathise with her as, in one way or another, everyone has been in her shoes before. All three have curated an inherently likeable character in X, serving the show well and playing strongly into the framework of a self-help seminar.
Emily Carr is both delightfully sardonic and ironically inspirational in ‘Beige Bitch’. Carr’s acceptance of her own shortcomings as perfectly fine is refreshingly cerebral. With jokes that are layered in self-referential narratives, Carr employs her audience to share in her revelation, as well as encourages them to find their own. ‘Beige Bitch’ incorporates flagrant audience participation for the benefit of its own storytelling rather than to poke fun. A definitive highlight of this is where Carr dons her hat as a qualified marriage celebrant (for which she truly is) to ‘marry’ an unsuspecting individual to their own sense of mediocrity. Carr brings a level of charm to ‘Beige Bitch’ which highlights just how much she adores performing for others. Evidently, the reception she receives from the audience demonstrates that the feeling is mutual.
‘Beige Bitch’ is a quintessential show for anyone who has ever felt overlooked, underappreciated, or mediocre. Emily Carr strives to find the sweet spot in her comedy routine reflective of general society’s thinking. Mixing equal parts of self-deprecation and universal experience, Carr encourages her audience to let their guards down and embrace their inner ordinariness. Both stirringly earnest and delectably funny, ‘Beige Bitch’ is sure to resonate with everyone who sees it in one way or another. While Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival is renowned for bringing the world’s gold standard in humour to town, Emily Carr is quite happy to be known as simply ‘beige’. And the Festival is all the brighter and more colourful for it.
‘Beige Bitch’ performs until Easter Sunday, 17 April 2022 at the Motley Bauhaus in Carlton. For more information about this or other Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows, or to purchase tickets, visit their website.